Minnesota Gophers quarterback Tanner Morgan has experienced the ups and downs of college football. From the high of winning bowl games to the low of doubts about his ability as a starter. Morgan through his faith and perseverance is trying to end his collegiate career on a rosy note.
Tanner Morgan came to Minnesota in 2017 after first committing to Western Michigan University. The change came when Western Michigan’s coach, P.J. Fleck accepted the Gophers’ head coaching position. Tanner followed along with the hope of leading a Division 1 team to national greatness.
Tanner Morgan Becomes a Starter
After a redshirt season in 2017, Morgan started the 2018 season as a backup to freshman Zack Annexstad. That would all change in Week 7 when Tanner replaced the injured Annexstad against Nebraska. Annexstad’s injury turned out to be a season-ending one, so Morgan became the Gopher’s starting quarterback for the remainder of the season. As the starter, Tanner led the Gophers to a 5-2 record including a 34-10 victory over Georgia Tech in the Quick Lane Bowl.
When fall practices started for Minnesota, Tanner Morgan’s name was still atop the Gopher’s quarterback chart. And he did not disappoint. Leading a team that was projected to finish in sixth place in the Big Ten West, Morgan led the Gophers to their most successful season in 50 years. Minnesota finished 11-2, losing only to Iowa and Wisconsin. They capped this season off with another bowl win, this time defeating Auburn 31-24 in the Outback Bowl.
Incredible 2019 Season
And Morgan was on fire the entire season. He finished the year with 3,253 passing yards along with 30 touchdowns. For his efforts, he was named second-team All-Big Ten. Tanner was aided greatly by the presence of first-team All-Big Ten, and future NFL wide receivers, Rashod Bateman and Tyler Johnson. Both players finished with more than 1,200 receiving yards for the year. All of this helped coach P.J. Fleck as he was named Big Ten Coach of the Year for the season.
The future looked bright for Tanner Morgan. But the winds of change were blowing. First offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca left to become the offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach at Penn State. Also leaving Minnesota was wide receiver Johnson who was drafted in the first round by Tampa Bay. Then, on August 11, 2020, the Big Ten announced that all fall sports would be canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pandemic and Emphasis on the Run
However, on September 16, the Big Ten reversed its decision and reinstated an eight-game season starting on October 24. But from then on, almost nothing went right for Tanner Morgan and the Gophers. The Northwestern game was canceled due to a Covid outbreak that affected 47 Gophers players and staff members. Then, the Wisconsin game was postponed and rescheduled for December 19 for the same reason. The team ended the season with a dismal 3-4 record.
Things went especially bad for Morgan. After five games, star receiver Bateman opted out of the rest of the season to prepare for the NFL Draft. And new offensive coordinator Mike Sanford instituted a rush-heavy offense that was centered around halfback Mo Ibrahim. This led to fewer opportunities for Morgan to shine. He finished the season with these pedestrian statistics: 1,374 passing yards and only seven touchdown passes. The team and Tanner hoped for better results in 2021.
Gophers Improve in 2021
Alas, the Gophers did improve their record considerably in 2021. They finished 9-4, topping it off with an 18-6 win over West Virginia in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl. The Mike Sanford-led offense once again relied heavily on the running game. Although suffering several injuries to their running backs unit, the Gophers still managed to run for over 2,300 yards and 27 rushing touchdowns.
Tanner Morgan’s play once again sputtered as he posted only 2,044 passing yards and 10 touchdown passes. Despite playing behind a veteran offensive line, he often threw under duress and at times seemed confused and frustrated out on the field. Perhaps to redeem himself, he announced on November 28, 2021, that he would be returning to Minnesota for his final year of eligibility in 2022.
Tanner Morgan Looks Ahead to the 2022 Season
So, what can Gophers fans expect from Tanner Morgan this season? On the plus side, offensive guru Ciarrocca returns to hopefully revive the passing game. Minnesota also has a bevy of receivers returning including Chris Autman-Bell, Dylan Wright, and tight end Brevyn Spann-Ford. And while the offensive line was decimated by graduations, they do return Rimington Trophy candidate John Michael Schmitz at center.
For the Gophers to realize their Rose Bowl dreams, Tanner Morgan will have to return to his 2019 form. This will relieve a lot of pressure off of running back Ibrahim and a defense that lost six starters from last year. Here’s hoping that he reignites his performance and in turn, his NFL aspirations.