The news of Minnesota’s Rashod Bateman opting out of the season was not a huge surprise. Bateman, who would have been a junior, will focus on preparing for the 2021 NFL Draft. With the uncertainty surrounding the season, I imagine he will not be the last draft-eligible player to do so.
A tweet from head coach P.J. Fleck (@Coach_Fleck) read in part:
“This morning, Rashod informed the team that he and his family made the decision to forgo his remaining eligibility and focus on training for the 2021 NFL Draft. Rashod played a pivotal role in helping mold the University of Minnesota into an elite Big Ten program. 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.”
In 2019, Bateman caught 60 passes for 1,219 yards and 11 touchdowns and was named Big Ten Receiver of the Year. He played a huge role in the Gophers’ upset of Penn State, with seven catches for 203 yards and a score.
Bateman’s departure is another blow to a Gopher offense losing several key players going into the 2020 season. Running back Rodney Smith graduated, and top receiver Tyler Johnson is now with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Chris Autman-Bell made some clutch grabs, and he’ll likely be the #1 target to start the season. Demetrius Douglas, primarily a return man a year ago, could see more targets as well. I’ll be interested to see whether the tight ends are more involved in the passing game this season; Brevyn Spann-Ford is someone else who could step up with Bateman opting out.
But all of that, of course, is assuming that there is college football this fall. Several schools have already had outbreaks among players, including Rutgers, Michigan State, and LSU. Fortunately, most or all of the players have experienced mild or no symptoms, but it’s likely a matter of time before that’s no longer the case.