Will Gophers get a second chance with former top in-state recruit Jaxon Howard?

The Gophers football program missed out on defensive end Jaxon Howard, the top in-state recruit in the 2023 class, when the Robbinsdale Cooper product committed to LSU in July 2022.

The U now might get a second chance.

After one season in the SEC, Howard is expected to enter the NCAA transfer portal when it opens on Monday.

The Pioneer Press understands the Gophers will seek adding at least one defensive lineman via the portal, and the U will see if Howard’s desires and the U’s opportunities align this time around.

Howard, the son of former Stanford and Vikings lineman Willie Howard, had two tackles in five games last season, including one stop against Wisconsin in the ReliaQuest Bowl.

The Gophers had success in re-recruiting Quinn Carroll, the Edina offensive lineman who initially went to Notre Dame before coming back to Minnesota in 2022. He was the top player in the state in the 2019 class and has been a mainstay on the Gophers’ offensive line for the last two seasons.

The transfer portal will remain open until April 30. The U’s needs will shift considering which players on the current roster might leave.

“I don’t know,” head coach P.J. Fleck said about specific roster objectives. “It depends on what happens with if we lose players or things like that.”

Less than passing grade

It’s still spring ball, but the Gophers passing game looked in need of a lot of work during its open-to-fans practice Thursday.

New quarterback Max Brosmer is three weeks into the learning curve from FCS-level New Hampshire to the speed and size that comes within a Big Ten program.

“There is just small nuances,” Fleck said about Brosmer’s need to adjust. “Lineman are bigger, windows close faster, shape of the ball matters more.”

Brosmer didn’t have enough zip on one pass and it was intercepted during a team section of practice. Another red zone throw from Brosmer should have been picked off, but a defender dropped it.

“On the field, it’s feeling space,” Brosmer said about his adjustment. “It’s learning how to lead new people in that same environment while being under the pressure of the situation.”

With all-Big Ten receiver Daniel Jackson sidelined in spring, there is a drop off to Elijah Spencer and Le’Meke Brockington and a slew of very inexperienced reserves. Spencer, in particular, had a tough Thursday with multiple dropped passes, and the second-year transfer from Charlotte chatted with Fleck after one of them.

Meanwhile, true freshman backup QB Drake Lindsay had a handful of impressive throws Thursday against the second-team defense, connecting on a deep ball to third-year wideout Kristen Hoskins for a big gain and followed it up with a fade-route touchdown to Donielle Hayes.

Fleck was asked about offensive playmakers stepping up so far in spring ball, and he mentioned Ohio transfer running back Sieh Bangura, Hayes and tight end Pierce Walsh, who had a nice over-the-middle catch on a ball from Lindsey.

Depth at corner

Last spring, the Gophers had only four scholarship cornerbacks. This year, it’s more than double that amount.

“There is competitive depth,” cornerbacks coach Nick Monroe said Monday. “I think last year during the spring game we were flipping guys back and forth between the maroon and the gold team. It’s a totally different — totally different — deal right now.”

The most-important addition is senior transfer Ethan Robinson, who played 31 games across three seasons at Bucknell.

“Everything he has shown so far is, the guy is a professional in every way,” Monroe said. “He comes to work. He comes to get better. … He is a winner. He is a playmaker. He’s athletic. I cannot say anything bad about Ethan. He’s got experience, too.”

Robinson came away with the interception of Brosmer on Thursday.

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