Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
If there’s one thing the Minnesota Golden Gophers’ football team has clearly lacked in recent years, it’s a wide receiver that commands attention from opposing defenses. KJ Maye led the team in receptions (four), targets (nine) and receiving yards (73) in the season opener against TCU, but someone else seems to have the tools to take on a big role going forward.
True freshman Rashad Still was a standout during fall camp, with speed, leaping ability and size (6’5″, 200 lbs) that no other Gophers’ receiver has. Still had just three receptions for 14 yards against TCU, with two of those catches coming during the fourth quarter of the game. But his seven targets from quarterback Mitch Leidner were the second-most on the team, behind Maye, and all signs point to Still maintaining a prominent role going forward.
Leidner’s inaccuracy as a passer means some margin for error is necessary, and any receiver with a wide catch radius has a better chance for success (see former tight end Maxx Williams). Still fits that bill, even with only one college game under his belt, and as he learns the nuances of the game his physical tools should be a mismatch for opposing cornerbacks.
The Gophers will and should continue to lean on the running game as their driving force offensively, and ideally Leidner will not match or surpass the 35 pass attempts he had against TCU on a regular basis. But making the most of the opportunities that do come through the air will be vital as the season goes on, and Still can absolutely help Leidner be more efficient while making defenses account for him as a downfield threat.
Maye is the Gophers’ No. 1 wide receiver right now, but it should only be a matter of time before Still proves he is capable of being the top option in Minnesota’s passing game. No other wide receiver has the ability to keep Still off the field, assuming the coaching staff is willing to give him a consistent role, so only injury or dismal quarterback play stands to hold him back this season.
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