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Gophers receiver Dylan Wright made splash play Saturday, but behind-scenes work has meant more

Wright is working to be more reliable, according to starting quarterback Tanner Morgan.

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MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — If the Minnesota Gophers’ passing offense was an ice cream flavor during Saturday’s practice, it would have been vanilla.

It was still early in training camp — the first full-padded practice at the end of Week 1 — and with media and fans in attendance at Athletes Village, returning offensive coordinator, Kirk Ciarrocca, wasn’t about to reveal any master plans on how he plans to revive the struggling unit.

So no sherbet, cookie dough or salted caramel. But Dylan Wright added some sprinkles.

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Dylan Wright
University of Minnesota

On an out route, the second-year transfer from Texas A&M jumped, caught a pass from backup quarterback Cole Kramer and tip-toed in-bounds for the biggest gain of the passing-heavy, two-hour session. Head coach P.J. Fleck took immediate notice, giving the 6-foot-4, 210-pound specimen a shoutout.

Yet Wright has done his best work behind the scenes.

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Gophers receiver Dylan Wright lunged into the end zone to score as he was tackled by Miami (Ohio)’s Cecil Singleton in the second quarter Saturday. Wright leads the team with eight catches for 130 yards and two TDs this season.
Aaron Lavinsky / Star Tribune

“He is in my office asking me questions after a meeting,” Fleck said Saturday. “He wants to watch NFL cut-up (film) and wants that sent to him. … He’s constantly wanting to learn. I think he’s still got a long way to go. You see how athletic he is, but just being a great athlete doesn’t make you a really good receiver.”

Upon arrival before last season, Fleck’s view was that Wright was a year away from being a consistent contributor. Wright had a stunning touchdown catch in the season-opening loss against Ohio State and showed flashes in a few other games, but he did not put together a full body of work.

Wright also dealt with tragedy midseason. He was granted leave from the Purdue game on Oct. 2 to return to West Mesquite, Texas, to mourn the loss of a second former high school teammate. Utah Utes cornerback Aaron Lowe was killed in a shooting less than a week earlier. And that happened nine months after Ty Jordan was killed in an accidental shooting in Utah in December 2020.

Wright came back to Minnesota after the bye week and played in 12 of 13 games. He didn’t have a reception in three games and had four other games with only one catch, albeit three of those went for at least 27 yards. He finished with 18 receptions for 365 yards (20.3 yards per catch) and two touchdowns.

Early in fall camp, the Gophers have missed receiver Daniel Jackson with an undisclosed injury. If that absence continues, Wright’s role will be even more important to an offense that needs to find a more equitable run-pass balance.

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Wright is working to be more reliable, according to starting quarterback Tanner Morgan.

“It’s about consistency, knowing what you are doing and fighting through situations,” Morgan said. “I know he’s going to continue to grow each and every day. It’s about the work he put in in January, February, March, spring, summer. But now he’s continuing to do that and learn from it. It’s been pretty cool to see.”

No. 1 receiver Chris Autman-Bell said he’s seen an improvement in Wright’s “mindset.”

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“Some players have the gift and have the ability to do, it’s just training the mind to keep doing it every day and having a strong mindset,” Autman-Bell said. “What (No. 5) has done since he’s been here, it’s change his mindset each day, each day, each day. Just get better. I love the mindset that he brings now.”

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