Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck made the announcement on Monday. Annexstad beat out Tanner Morgan, a redshirt freshman, for the starting job.
Fleck told the Twin Cities Pioneer Press that it was the “hardest decision I’ve had to make as a head football coach.”
Annexstad, a pro-style quarterback, was a two-star recruit in the recruiting class of 2018. He had to come to Minnesota as a non-scholarship player because the Gophers had used scholarships at other positions to help the team’s depth.
The competition for the starting quarterback job changed in June when Vic Viramontes decided to transfer. He had joined the Minnesota program in January as a sophomore after spending one season at junior college. He worked with the Gophers during the spring before deciding to leave.
Annexstad is believed to the second walk-on true freshman to start a season opener at a BCS school. Baker Mayfield was a true freshman walk-on when he started the season opener for Texas Tech. Mayfield later transferred to Oklahoma, where he won the Heisman Trophy and became the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
“He has an enormous challenge,” Fleck said of Annexstad, according to the Pioneer Press. “I told him this: It’s 51 years of no-championship football here and I said now everybody’s going to think you’re the answer and there’s pressure and expectation … except … he’s a true freshman that we are going to develop to become something. He’s going to make those mistakes, but I trust him mentally.”
Minnesota opens the 2018 season on Thursday, August 30, at home against New Mexico State. The Gophers went 5-7 last year in Fleck’s first season as their head coach.