MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - The Minnesota Golden Gophers offense has a a big hole to fill at wide reciever after Rashod Bateman announced Tuesdsay morning he is opting out of the 2020 season amid Covid-19 concerns and focus on training for 2021 NFL Draft.
Bateman, a 6-2 wide receiver from Tifton, Ga., was entering his junior season with the Gophers. In 2019, Bateman was named the Big Ten Receiver of the Year and a First Team All-Big Ten pick after he had 60 catches for 1,219 yards and 12 touchdowns.
"Rashod played a pivotal role in helping mold the Univeristy of Minnesota into an elite Big Ten Program," head coach P.J. Fleck posted on Twitter. Adding, "He was a joy to coach and has developed into an NFL caliber of player. We could not be more proud of Rashod's historic and All-American career at Minnesota."
Bateman's decision is one that many top prospects around the country eligibile for the 2021 NFL Draft have to make as college programs around the country are weighing a fall college season amid the Covid-19 pandemic. The college football season could be delayed until the spring, and with the draft likely to remain in April, Bateman and other prospects likely don't want to risk injury and put their draft stock at risk.
Bateman helped lead the Gophers to an 11-2 season, its best finish in 115 years, and a win over Auburn in the Outback Bowl as Minnesota finsihed the 2019 season with its first top-10 ranking in decades.
In 26 career games over two seasons at Minnesota, Bateman had 111 catches for 1,923 yards and 17 touchdowns. He'll leave the program 12th in catches, tied for eighth in receiving yards and tied for fifth in touchdowns.
The news means Minnesota's top returning receivers if a 2020 season happens are Chris Autman-Bell and Demetrius Douglas. Autman-Bell had 28 catches for 371 yards and five touchdowns last season, including a touchdown grab late in regulation in Week 2 that got the Gophers to an overtime win at Fresno State. Douglas had 14 catches for 157 yards, with two of his biggest grabs coming on consecutive plays late in the fourth quarter against Georgia Southern, a game the Gophers won on a Tyler Johnson touchdown catch.