Gophers start spring football, WR Dylan Wright no longer with team

The University of Minnesota football team started spring practice on Tuesday, and they’re doing it without wide receiver Dylan Wright.

PJ Fleck confirmed on Tuesday Wright is no longer on the Gophers’ roster, and he has left the team. Wright transferred to Minnesota from Texas A&M two years ago, and in two seasons with the Gophers, he had 35 catches for 645 yards and three touchdowns over 24 games.

"He’s no longer on the roster. Just like my normal standard policy, whether they’re not on the roster, whether they’re in the portal, we don’t talk about the players that aren’t here anymore," Fleck said. "If they’re not here anymore, we wish them 100 percent success, wish them the best and always support them, and we’ll do anything for them."


Gophers have 10 NFL hopefuls workout at annual Pro Day

The University of Minnesota football team had 10 players hoping to make it in the NFL at the team's annual Pro Day on Wednesday, ahead of next month's NFL Draft.

Last season, Wright had 17 catches for 280 yards and one touchdown, good for fourth among Minnesota receivers. He was also suspended for one game, at Penn State, after an incident with a coach during Minnesota’s 24-16 loss at Illinois the week before.

In 2021, Wright stepped away from the team for one game after two of his close friends died in a shooting in Texas.

The 2023 Gophers will look a lot different on both sides of the ball, between players graduating, leaving for the NFL, transferring out and Fleck bringing in new talent. Including Wright, 12 players have left the program since a win over Syracuse in the Pinstripe Bowl to finish the 2022 season 9-4. Most recently, wide receiver Michael Brown-Stephens and running back Trey Potts entered the transfer portal. Nine defensive players are gone from last year’s team.

Wright’s departure also comes after the Gophers brought in wide receivers Corey Crooms and Elijah Spencer from the transfer portal. It’s the new normal in college sports.

"It used to be if a kid left the program, you would ask me what happened? What’s wrong with the program? There’s something going on inside there. Now it’s just second nature," Fleck said. "We all want guys to have better opportunities, we want them to go to the NFL. If a guy is not playing, he has the option to leave. If he doesn’t fit, he doesn’t stay in a place where he doesn’t fit for three, four years and waste that time, and then become combative with coaches and peers. We don’t have time for that, and this allows people to get to where you fit."


Fleck made it clear Tuesday – Spring practice is all about competing for playing time in the fall. He said he loves looking at his depth chart on Day 1, compared to going into the Spring Game. The two often look very different. 

Fans can get their first look at the 2023 Gophers at an open practice on March 28 at 5:15 p.m. They’ll have another one April 4 before the April 22 Spring Game at Huntington Bank Stadium.

"We’re always competing. You’re always either growing, or you’re getting worse. I’m a firm believer in that," Fleck said. "The great thing about spring is you’ll never win the job, you’re going to set up winning the job. Players make the depth chart."


Minnesota’s offensive line will have three new starters, with John Michael Schmitz, Chuck Filiaga and Axel Ruschmeyer all departing. The returning veterans are Quinn Carroll, Nathan Boe, JJ Guedet and Airentae Ersery. Fleck said centers will play guard, guards will play tackle and there will be plenty of shuffling to find the best five.

"We’re going to move a lot of things around up front. We’re just going to find where do they fit best for the 2023 season, and we’re going to find that out in spring," Fleck said. "I’m excited because there’s a lot of competition out there."


The Gophers got a glimpse of their future at quarterback last fall when Athan Kaliakmanis took over for the injured Tanner Morgan. Kaliakmanis threw for 946 yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions in nine games. He also showed he's dangerous with his feet, rushing for 193 yards and one touchdown.

He suffered a lower leg injury in the Pinstripe Bowl in the first half and did not return. Fleck said Kaliakmanis is fine, and will get a full workload this spring.


The Gophers have co-offensive coordinators this year in Greg Harbaugh and Matt Simon. Fleck didn’t say Tuesday who will call the plays in 2023. It’s safe to say the offense will have a new look. Mo Ibrahim is gone, as is Potts. There’s new competition in the running back room between Sean Tyler, Zach Evans, Bryce Williams and Darius Taylor.

Same goes for the wide receiver room which returns Daniel Jackson, Chris Autman-Bell from a leg injury, Brevyn Spann-Ford and adds transfers Corey Crooms and Elijah Spencer.

"I think we’re doing everything we can to make sure that the playmakers on this particular football team touch the ball as much as they possibly can. How that looks different, we’re going to find out," Fleck said. "We haven’t even played football yet, shaping that offense is going to be a lot of fun."