Gophers tight end Brevyn Spann-Ford has ‘big vision’
Brevyn Spann-Ford stood in front of a line of TV cameras and a gaggle of reporters for the first time Tuesday. It was a sign of a changing of the guard at the Gophers’ tight end position and the heightened expectations that will be thrust on the fifth-year player come fall.
The 6-foot-7 St. Cloud native recently talked about what he wants in offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca’s office.
“He has a really big vision for himself on where he wants to go,” Ciarrocca shared. “My comment back to him was, ‘You need to show me you are willing to do the work that it’s going to take to get there.’ He was like, “Coach, I will.”
Spann-Ford has done that, Ciarrocca relayed after the seventh spring practice. As for the exact “vision,” Spann-Ford directed it back to being there for his teammates.
Spann-Ford will need to assume the mantle of blocking tight end, which Ko Kieft established, and build on the promise as a pass-catcher. Spann Ford had 23 receptions for 296 yards and one touchdown, including a stunning 48-yard reception where he hurdled an Indiana defender in a 35-14 win last November.
Up and down Kaliakmanis
Backup quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis brought practice to a standstill Tuesday as head coach P.J. Fleck had a one-on-one conversation with him. On the next play, Kaliakmanis threw a roughly 25-yard dart to freshman Ike White in the corner of the end zone. Then Kaliakmanis was tagged with a penalty and had a pass over the middle broken up by safety Michael Dixon.
That’s the rollercoaster life for a second-year QB, but it’s his upside behind incumbent Tanner Morgan that went into Ciarroccaa’s decision to return to Minnesota after two years away.
“I’d be lying to you if I didn’t say that when I decided to come back here that I didn’t think about him and having an opportunity to work with him,” said Ciarrocca, who helped recruit Kaliakmanis before taking a job at Penn State in December 2019.
Notable players out of Tuesday’s practice: offensive tackle JJ Guedet, cornerback Terell Smith and receiver Lemeke Brockington. They were also out for the previous open practice last week. The absence of Guedet was the most glaring with the Gophers needing to replace four starting offensive linemen from last season, including both tackles.
Center John Michael Schmitz, the only returning starter up front, had injured his lower leg in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl but avoided a serious setback to be able to anchor the O-line in spring ball.
On Tuesday, the other starters appeared to be right tackle Martes Lewis, right guard Chuck Filiaga, left tackle Axel Ruschmeyer and left tackle Aireontae Ersery. Filiaga is a Michigan transfer.
The need for tackle/guard Quinn Carroll to arrive is apparent; the Edina native is finishing classes at Notre Dame and is expected to join the program in June.
Jordan Howden has started 36 career games and Tyler Nubin 20; that vast experience has led to a strong chemistry at the back of the Gophers’ defense.
“I can give him a little hand signal, and he knows exactly what it means,” Nubin said last week. “I don’t have to do anything crazy, just to know he’s going to do his job always. We got that trust factor between us. It’s going to be dangerous this year.”