MINNEAPOLIS — Logan Hutton didn’t see the field at all as a redshirt freshman wide receiver in 2011. One single catch was all the Texas native had to show for his sophomore campaign last year.
Through it all, Hutton stayed patient.
Just when it looked like Hutton’s chance to contribute to the Gophers’ offense may never come, he finally received his opportunity last weekend. In his first career start, Hutton caught a pair of passes — equaling his career total from his first two seasons — in Minnesota’s win against New Mexico State. By doing so, Hutton inserted himself into the conversation at wide receiver, a position that remains in flux for the Gophers.
Hutton’s patience paid off. After all the hard work he put in, he never doubted that this chance would come.
“Coach (Jerry) Kill always stressed that from the beginning: if you work, you’ll end up playing,” Hutton said. “That’s always been his main thing since he first got here. He will play the people who will work for him, and he always talks about the foxhole. That’s his mentality. If you’re going to be in the foxhole with him, he wants you to play.”
Hutton is finally getting that chance to play. Heading into Saturday’s game against Western Illinois, he’s currently tied for the team lead in receptions — which isn’t saying a ton, given that no player has more than three catches.
Still, for a passing attack trying to establish an identity, Hutton believes he can be a part of the solution. The 6-foot-1, 181-pound receiver wasn’t highly recruited out of La Marque (Tex.) High School and was rated as a two-star recruit by Scout.com. When Minnesota’s scholarship offer finally came on signing day of his senior year, Hutton jumped at the chance to head north and follow in his older brother Lee’s footsteps.
Lee Hutton also played wide receiver for the Gophers in the mid-90s. Now an attorney in Minneapolis, he told his brother that coming to play for Minnesota was a good choice.
“I picked (the offer) up and my brother said, ‘If you really want to come, then come,'” Logan Hutton said. “It was down to a couple other schools. It always helps to have family up here.”
Through two games, quarterback Philip Nelson and Minnesota’s passing attack have left something to be desired. While the Gophers rank 19th nationally in rushing yards, they’re 112th in passing yards (113.0 yards per game).
Hutton’s three catches have gone for a total of 31 yards, and he feels he can do better. So can the entire receiving corps for that matter, Hutton says.
“As far as the passing game goes, I think we were targeted 15 times (against New Mexico State) and didn’t really complete most of them,” Hutton said. “I think we always have to stress to get better, getting with Philip and taking advantage of our opportunities. I think that’s the main thing that comes along with that, just always trying to make the most of it. If it’s a pass, we have to get it.”
Added head coach Jerry Kill: “We’ve got about six or seven people playing in there right now. We’ve had two or three drops that we can’t afford to have, but there’s talent in there. We’ve got to get it figured out over the next three or four weeks and keep teaching kids.”
Hutton noted that his blocking needs to improve, too, in order to receive more playing time. In the Gophers’ run-first offense, even the wide receivers need to be able to block. The same goes for special teams, where Hutton has played already this year.
When Marcus Jones returned a punt for a touchdown against New Mexico State, Hutton helped pave the way to the end zone for Jones. But as his own harshest critic, Hutton notes that he could have blocked better on the play to help spring an even bigger hole for Jones to run through.
After Hutton made his first career start in that game last Saturday, his brother was no doubt proud. But the elder Hutton had a few words of advice for his kid brother.
“It’s always, ‘You’ll have to do one more,'” Logan Hutton said. “Coach Kill says that this is just a step. … One more means get better, don’t get complacent. There’s always one more step to take.”
It took three years, but Hutton has taken a step to become a starting wide receiver in college. Now it’s time for he and the Gophers to take the next one.