Lingen emerging as passing threat

The tight end had two touchdowns in the Gophers 41-13 victory at Purdue.

 Tight end Brandon Lingen watches running back Rodney Smith handle the ball while at TCF Bank Stadium as on Sept. 26,  where the Gophers defeated Ohio University 27-24.

Maddy Fox, Daily File Photo

Tight end Brandon Lingen watches running back Rodney Smith handle the ball while at TCF Bank Stadium as on Sept. 26, where the Gophers defeated Ohio University 27-24.

Ryan Falk

The image of tight end Maxx Williams leaping defenders on his way to the end zone is still fresh in the minds of the Gophers, but Minnesota has another tight end who’s drawn a lot of comparisons to the acrobatic Williams.
 
Sophomore Brandon Lingen brought thoughts of Williams back after his two-touchdown performance against Purdue.
 
“He’s a very similar player to Maxx Williams,” redshirt junior quarterback Mitch Leidner said. “To finally get him some touches and see what he can do out on the field is good for us offensively.” 
 
Williams was a finalist for the 2014 John Mackey award, which goes to college football’s best tight end.
 
Williams finished the season as the team’s leading receiver, scoring four times as many touchdowns and hauling in twice as many receptions as the next Minnesota receiver.
 
Lingen hasn’t been as big a part of the Gophers offense as Williams was so far this season, with seven catches for 55 yards.
 
With a performance like he had against Purdue, though, it’s easy to see why Lingen has drawn comparisons to Williams.
 
“There are things we were able to do with Maxx that created mismatches that Brandon is [now] working himself,” offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover said.
 
If Lingen can provide a consistent target like Williams did, it would be a needed boost for the Gophers offense. The unit has struggled this year outside of Saturday’s game against Purdue.
 
Comparisons to Williams will likely keep coming for Lingen if he has more days like Saturday. However, the sophomore said it’s too early to compare him to Williams, adding that it’ll take more than just him to replace Williams’ production. 
 
“It’s a huge compliment because obviously Maxx is an incredible player,” Lingen said. “[I’m] not at that level yet. [I’ve] got to keep getting better.”
 
Lingen gained only 18 yards on two receptions in his freshman year.
 
He surpassed that total in just one game on Saturday, catching three passes for 22 yards.
 
About one-third of Leidner’s completions went to Williams last year, but the quarterback said in some ways Lingen is already better than Williams.
 
“His speed and route running — don’t tell Maxx this — but his route running might be a little bit better than Maxx’s to be honest,” Leidner said.
 
Like Williams, Lingen is a Minnesota native, from Wayzata. Lingen came to the Gophers as a three-star recruit in 2014, according to ESPN. 
 
Lingen said he would like to learn from the work ethic Williams showed while with Minnesota, which led to the Baltimore Ravens selecting Williams in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft.
 
“Maxx was a very hard worker, not only on Saturdays but every day,” Lingen said. “The work ethic he showed is something I’ve really tried to emulate, and [I’ve got to] keep working.”