We’re taking a look this week at an area of need for each Big Ten team and how the 2016 recruiting class can help with the problem. Next up are the Minnesota Golden Gophers:
Biggest need for 2016: Wide receiver
Even with new coach Tracy Claeys looking to retool the offense as he puts his stamp on the program, Minnesota isn’t likely to start repeatedly airing out the football instead of prominently featuring its rushing attack. But the Gophers are certainly intent on expanding the passing game to try to keep up with some of the explosive offenses around the Big Ten, and they’ll have to take the next step this season without their most productive, reliable target now that KJ Maye is out of eligibility.
There are some intriguing options with experience already in the pipeline with Drew Wolitarsky and Eric Carter returning next season at wide receiver and tight end Brandon Lingen proving he can be a matchup problem for defenders. But losing Maye’s 73 receptions, 773 yards and five touchdowns is a significant blow for a roster that hasn’t exactly been oozing with talent at the perimeter skill positions recently.
Mitch Leidner has typically received most of the heat for some of the inconsistency throwing the football over the last couple seasons, but the quarterback hasn’t been solely to blame. He could certainly improve his accuracy a bit more heading into his final campaign with the Gophers, but he also will definitely need help from his wideouts. -- Austin Ward
How the 2016 recruiting class can help: The Gophers landed a huge prospect in four-star quarterback Seth Green, but having some weapons to throw to is of the utmost importance. The staff also took care of the need at receiver by landing ESPN 300 Dredrick Snelson and three-star Drew Hmielewski.
The Minnesota staff also has a few athletes committed who could fill roles on offense, but the problem the Gophers are facing now is keeping Snelson committed.
The No. 20-ranked receiver in this class is planning to visit Maryland and UCF and is also getting interest from Miami. If the Gophers don't sign him, it will be a huge hit to their 2016 class. -- Tom VanHaaren