Minnesota wide receiver Chris Autman-Bell, the leading receiver for a potent Golden Gophers offense, will miss the rest of the season after suffering a lower leg injury and will have surgery on Sunday to repair the injury. The redshirt senior star has a team-high 11 receptions for 214 yards and one touchdown during three games before suffering the injury late in the first half in Minnesota's 49-7 win over Colorado on Saturday.
The school confirmed that it will pursue a seventh year of eligibility for the 6-foot-1, 210-pound native of Kankakee, Illinois, should he choose to return next season. The NCAA issued a blanket waiver that allows players who played in the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season to exclude that year from their eligibility.
Coach PJ Fleck commented on Autman-Bell's injury in his postgame press conference on Saturday.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with him and we're sending positive thoughts," he said. "It's unfortunate as he kind of reaches back for a ball and then takes kind of a funky step and and hurts himself. I know we got some amazing doctors, amazing medical care and I'll let you know as soon as we know what's going on with him. He's a big member of this football team. I'd be lying if I say he wasn't. He's one of the most integral parts of what we do and how we do it on and off the field and one of the best people."
Autman-Bell was a three-star prospect out of Bishop McNamara in the 2017 recruiting class. His absence is a negative development for an offense that ranks second in the nation with 554.7 yards per game.
Wide receiver Michael Brown-Stephens and tight end Brevyn Spann-Ford are the Gophers' next two leading receivers, and are the only two with more than 100 yards receiving this year. Keep an eye on junior Texas A&M transfer Dylan Wright as the primary replacement for Autman-Bell. The junior had two catches for 31 yards and one touchdown in the win over the Buffaloes, and has four total catches for 58 yards this season.
The Golden Gophers will take on Michigan State in East Lansing, Michigan, Saturday.