It’s hard to envision Rashod Bateman taking on a bigger role than he had a year ago. He was the B1G’s second-leading receiver and considered one of the top pass-catchers in the country as a sophomore.

But when your teammate was the conference’s top receiver, that means there’s still a void to fill.

Bateman finished the 2019 season with 1,219 yards and 11 touchdowns on 60 receptions, helping the Golden Gophers to an 11-2 record. Those numbers were second in the B1G, only to fellow Gopher Tyler Johnson, who totaled 1,318 yards and 13 touchdowns on 86 catches.

Last season, Bateman already showed he can be the No. 1 receiver in Minnesota’s offense. Now that he’ll take on that role, head coach P.J. Fleck says the rising junior wide receiver is embracing the opportunity and looks even better now than a year ago.

“The playmaking ability, that’s never gone away. I think that’s gone up,” Fleck said in a video shared by “He’s gained weight, he looks bigger. I think he’s a more explosive receiver. He’s smarter. He’s really studied the game in the offseason. He’s a guy that’s staying here and working through spring break.”

Bateman wasn’t just a reliable target for Tanner Morgan last season, he showcased the ability to do just about anything on the field. He could turn short passes into long touchdown runs, while also having the ability to haul in jump balls and make spectacular catches on a regular basis.

If he’s really become bigger, smarter and more explosive, he could be in store for a really special season.