Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021



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WR Dylan Wright Steps Up for Gophers


In Dylan Wright’s Minnesota debut last week he was the team’s leading receiver with five receptions, 57 yards and one touchdown catch. The Texas A&M transfer was a difference maker, showing his speed and skill in going up to catch the football against top-five ranked Ohio State.

Wright, 6-3 and 215, is a redshirt sophomore wide receiver who played in a total of eight games in 2019 and 2020 at A&M. “This is only his first year of really playing (college) football. First game (last Thursday) playing multiple, meaningful snaps. He’s just scratching the surface of where he can go,” Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck said yesterday.

Wright helped against the Buckeyes in the absence of the team’s most established wide receiver, the injured Chris Autman-Bell. A senior, Autman-Bell has played in 33 games during his Minnesota career, with 78 receptions for 1,250 yards and six touchdowns. He should be back soon and Fleck is anticipating the trio of Wright, Autman-Bell and sophomore Daniel Jackson.

“You start to look at that core and you start to see a lot of similarities from what we’ve had,” Fleck said in reference to 2019 when the 11-2 Gophers’ boasted superlative wide receivers in Rashod Bateman, Tyler Johnson and Autman-Bell.

Dylan Wright

Fleck also praises Wright’s character, referring to him as a “wonderful person” and says the Mesquite, Texas native is devoted to football. “Dylan Wright loves football and he loves to work at it. I think that’s what makes him special is how hard he works at becoming a really good player.”

The contribution of the wide receivers to the offense will be more important than ever after yesterday’s announcement that All-American running back Mohamed Ibrahim will have surgery today for what Fleck describes as a lower leg injury. He will miss the rest of the season and the redshirt senior’s future is uncertain at Minnesota.

Fleck said there is no pressure to do so now but in the months ahead Ibrahim will decide whether to pursue an NFL career or return for another season with the Gophers in 2022. “He should be able to make a full recovery,” Fleck said about what is believed to be a left Achilles injury. (Fleck doesn’t detail injuries, believing it’s best to leave that information up to the player to disclose if he chooses to do so.)

Ibrahim had a typical high production game against Ohio State, running 30 times for 164 yards. Who replaces him as the lead running back starting with Saturday’s home nonconference game against Miami (Ohio)? “Every back is going to be able to get a look,” Fleck said.

Fans may correctly expect redshirt sophomore Trey Potts, who had 37 yards in 10 carries last week, to win the designation as lead back. Others under consideration are redshirt junior Bryce Williams, redshirt sophomore Cam Wiley, redshirt freshman Ky Thomas and true freshman Mar’Keise Irving. Williams rushed for a career high 141 yards in a 2018 win over Miami (Ohio) in Minneapolis.

Worth Noting

Matthew Trickett, the Kent State transfer who kicked an impressive 46-yard field goal in the Ohio State loss, is a first team All-Big Ten preseason pick by Pro Football Focus.

The Gopher athletic department is promoting tickets for all available remaining home games, with “starting at” prices of $20 for Miami (Ohio) and Bowling Green, $75 for Nebraska, $35 Maryland, $45 Illinois and $85 Wisconsin.

Saturday’s game with Miami will be televised by ESPNU and the September 18 game in Boulder against Colorado will be carried by the Pac-12 Network.

Arkansas’ Eric Musselman, who the University of Minnesota could almost certainly have hired as head basketball coach a few years ago, has the No. 6 ranked recruiting class for 2022, per the 247 Sports composite listings.

Iowa State, whose basketball verbal commits include Eli King from Caledonia, is ranked No. 10, and Purdue, with a potential class headed by Camden Heide of Wayzata, is No. 16. Both Minnesotans are four-star recruits, per 247.

Heide’s brother Keaton is a reserve quarterback on the FCS South Dakota State football team that upset FBS Colorado State in Fort Collins last week.

“David versus Goliath:” The St. Thomas football team, in its first season of Division I competition, plays Northern Iowa on September 18. The Panthers put a scare into top-10 ranked Iowa State last week before losing 16-10.

It’s fitting the Toronto Blue Jays will be the opponent when Canada native Justin Morneau is inducted into the Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame on September 25. Prior to the game at Target Field with the Blue Jays, the former Twins first baseman and AL MVP will have former teammate Joe Mauer as his presenter.

Retiring: Bill Evers, 67 and filling in as Twins manager while Rocco Baldelli is on paternity leave, will retire at season’s end. The veteran Twins coach has managerial experience in pro baseball dating back to 1987.

“Book Reports:” Pioneer Press sportswriter Chris Tomasson Tweeted that his book, The Minnesota Vikings All-Time All-Stars, is coming out September 15 and will be available on Amazon.

There will be a private publication party September 24 at the University of Minnesota for Terry McConnell’s new book, Breaking through the Line. The book tells the story of former Gophers All-American Bobby Marshall who was the NFL’s first African American player.

The Star Tribune’s Chip Scoggins wrote on Facebook he is collaborating with fellow columnist Patrick Reusse on a book they hope to have out in the spring. The book will recount the many entertaining stories of Reusse’s career in newspapers and radio.

Real Estate: Various online reports this summer say former Minnesota Timberwolves superstar Kevin Garnett sold his unfinished Malibu, California mansion for $16 million. No word on whether he’s looking for property in Glen Taylor’s home town of Mankato.

The state’s top thoroughbreds and quarter horses race Wednesday at Canterbury Park in the 28th Minnesota Festival of Champions.  The 12-race card will pay a total of $852,450 in purses.

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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