The tight end position has been crucial to both the running and passing attack since head coach Jerry Kill arrived on campus for the 2011 season. In Kill’s four campaigns, Minnesota quarterbacks have combined for 53 touchdowns through the air with 26 hauled in by tight ends (49 percent).
The most lethal target Kill has recruited and developed in that span is former Gopher Maxx Williams. A Mackey Award finalist and All-Big Ten First Team honoree from a season ago, Williams left his mark on the record books as he tallied 61 receptions for 986 yards (third in program history for a tight end) and 13 touchdowns, which is the 10th-highest mark for any receiver. Williams will not be back as he declared for the 2015 NFL Draft and was selected by the Baltimore Ravens in the second round.
With nine tight ends on the 2015 roster, position coach Rob Reeves has plenty of suitable options to replace the production of Williams from last year (36 receptions, 569 yards, eight touchdowns).
Lincoln Plsek is the lone upperclassman in a group that features one senior, five sophomores and three freshmen. The 6-4, 278-pound target caught five passes for 53 yards in 2014. Plsek played in all 13 games and protected for an offense that rushed for 2,801 yards and 32 touchdowns last season.
The Gophers offense should also benefit from the return of redshirt sophomore Duke Anyanwu. The Blaine, Minn. native saw his season come to a close when he suffered a knee injury, sidelining the athletic playmaker for the entire 2014 campaign. During his freshman season, Anyanwu was a key contributor on special teams.
Nick Hart, Noah Scarver and Nate Wozniak join Anyanwu’s standing as returning redshirt sophomores. Hart competed in 11 games last year on special teams, while Scarver sat out last season after transferring from Montana. Wozniak played in five games in 2014 is the tallest player on Minnesota’s roster as the tight end stands at 6-10.
Uber-talented sophomore Brandon Lingen earned his first career start at tight end in the third game of 2014 at TCU. Lingen hauled in a pair of passes and was recognized as the team’s outstanding offensive freshman of the year last season.
After taking a redshirt in 2014, Jerry Gibson will be looking to make an impact both on offense and on special teams.
With an already crowded field at the position, Coach Kill brought in a pair of gifted tight ends in freshmen Colton Beebe and Bryce Witham.
A position that won’t need to be replenished with production is fullback. Battering rams Tyler Hartmann and Miles Thomas return from a year ago in which they contributed immensely to the run game as lead blockers.
Hartmann, a redshirt junior, played in all 13 games and started one at fullback last season after converting from the defensive line in 2012. The Andover, Minn. native was also an Academic All-Big Ten selection a year ago.
After transferring from Butler Community College, Thomas has been a staple to the offensive attack both in the air and on the ground. The senior caught six passes for 41 yards in his first season with the Gophers.
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