Smith, Brooks look to lead potent Minnesota rushing game
Rodney Smith, Jonah Pirsig, Drew Wolitarsky and Shannon Brooks recognized by the Big Ten
Gophers head to Illinois to face the Illini
Stable of backs, healthy Leidner powers Minnesota running game
Gophers posted some impressive feats last season in TCF Bank Stadium that cracked the record books
CAREER: Has rushed 328 times for 1,688 yards in 27 games, which ranks 27th all-time in program history • has rushed for 17 career touchdowns (five career touchdowns are 37 yards or longer), caught two touchdown passes and passed for one (42 yards to Drew Wolitarsky at Iowa in 2015) • first Gopher running back since Duane Bennett, who played from 2007-11, to rush, pass and throw for a touchdown in his career • team is 11-2 when he scores a touchdown • career long 75-yard rushing touchdown came against Illinois in 2015.
2017 • JUNIOR SEASON: Rushed 18 times for 69 yards and one touchdown against Buffalo and also returned two kickoffs for 46 yards • gained 91 yards and matched his career high with three touchdowns on 17 carries at Oregon State • added 40 yards on two kickoff returns to total a team-high 136 all-purpose yards against the Beavers • missed the Middle Tennessee game with an injury • returned to action against Maryland and rushed 12 times for 39 yards and scored one touchdown • gained 116 yards on 18 carries at Purdue and returned two kickoffs for 35 yards • totaled 177 all-purpose yards against Michigan State.
2016 • SOPHOMORE SEASON: Played in 10 games and started two • missed three games with an injury • rushed 138 times for 650 yards and five touchdowns • had eight receptions for 76 yards and two touchdowns • returned three kickoffs for 44 yards. Game-by-Game: Missed the Oregon State and Indiana State game with an injury • made his season debut against Colorado State and rushed 13 times for 85 yards and one touchdown • carried the ball 14 times for 100 yards and one touchdown at Penn State • touchdown covered 37 yards, which was his fifth career rushing score that has been 35 yards or greater • rushed 10 times for 55 yards and a touchdown against Iowa • carried the ball 22 times for 86 yards at Maryland and also added 17-yard touchdown reception, which was the first receiving score of his career • his touchdown reception at Maryland was the first receiving touchdown for a Gopher running back since Duane Bennett caught a 38-yard touchdown from Adam Weber on Oct. 2, 2010, against Northwestern (span of 76 games) • gained 87 yards on 22 carries against Rutgers and rushed for one touchdown • rushed 12 times for 59 yards and one touchdown at Illinois • missed the Purdue game with an injury • rushed nine times for 17 yards at Nebraska and also caught one pass for nine yards • totaled 106 all-purpose yards (73 rushing, 33 receiving) against Northwestern • rushed nine times for 37 yards at Wisconsin • gained 51 yards on 13 carries against Washington State and caught two passes for 10 yards and one touchdown.
2015 • FRESHMAN SEASON: Rushed 119 times for 709 yards (fourth-most ever for a freshman) and seven touchdowns • his seven touchdowns have covered 75, 71, 40, 38, five and three yards (twice) • became the first Gopher since Laurence Maroney in 2005 to have four touchdown runs longer than 35 yards in one season, as Maroney had scoring runs of 93 yards (Wisconsin), 73 (Tulsa), 67 (Tulsa) and 38 (Florida Atlantic) • averaged 6.0 yards per carry, which is the 11th-best mark in school history and the third-best ever for a freshman behind Laurence Maroney (6.92 on 162 carries in 2003) and Marion Barber III (6.28 on 118 carries in 2001) • also caught 17 passes for 167 yards • named Big Ten Freshman of the Week three times • received Minnesota's Bob McNamara Offensive Back of the Year award and was named the team's Outstanding Offensive Freshman of the Year • named All-Big Ten Honorable Mention. Game-by-Game: Made his Minnesota and collegiate debut at Colorado State where he saw action on special teams and on one offensive play • played on special teams against Kent State and made two tackles • saw significant action against Ohio and carried the ball 10 times for 82 yards and two touchdowns and also returned four kickoffs for 65 yards • scored on 40-yard run against Ohio and also scored the game-winning touchdown from three yards out with 30 seconds left in the game • rushed 10 times for 33 yards at Northwestern and also returned two kickoffs for 47 yards • rushed 17 times for 176 yards, which included a 71-yard touchdown at Purdue • his 176 yards at Purdue tied Darrell Thompson (176 yards versus Northwestern, Oct. 11, 1986) as the eighth-highest total by a freshman running back in program history and were the most by a freshman running back since Laurence Maroney rushed for 179 yards at Illinois on Nov. 1, 2003 • named Big Ten Freshman of the Week after his performance at Purdue • rushed eight times for 25 yards against Nebraska • carried the ball 12 times for 33 yards and caught one pass for 40 yards against Michigan • rushed 11 times for 27 yards and caught two passes for 11 yards at Ohio State • gained 86 yards and one touchdown on 14 carries at Iowa and also caught three passes for 13 yards • attempted and completed his first career pass, a 42-yard touchdown to Drew Wolitarsky at Iowa to become the first non-quarterback to throw a touchdown for the Gophers since running back Duane Bennett hit tight end Eric Lair for an 8-yard score against Northwestern in 2010 • named Big Ten Freshman of the Week after his performance at Iowa • rushed 17 times for 174 yards (10th most ever for a Minnesota freshman running back) and three touchdowns (75, 38 and five yards) against Illinois • his 75-yard touchdown against Illinois was the longest by a Gopher since MarQueis Gray's 75-yard run against New Hampshire in 2012 • named Big Ten Freshman of the Week after his perfomance against Illinois • caught three passes for 53 yards against Wisconsin • rushed 15 times for 65 yards and caught four passes for 45 yards against Central Michigan.
HIGH SCHOOL: Attended Pickens High School and led his team to an 8-3 record and a 5-3 mark in region play • helped Dragons advance to the playoffs for the first time since 2005 • was a four-year varsity player and finished his career (played in 36 games) with 709 rushing attempts for 5,797 yards and 68 touchdowns for an average of 8.2 yards-per-carry • caught 85 career passes for 1,259 yards and 14 touchdowns • scored 82 career touchdowns • as a senior (11 games) he rushed 225 times for 2,223 yards (third most in the state and a school record) and scored 32 touchdowns, while catching 12 passes for 206 yards and one touchdown • scored 198 points (fourth most in the state) on a school-record 33 touchdowns and was named Class AAAA Offensive Player of the Year, a First-Team All-State selection and Class AAAA Region 7 Player of the Year • as a junior (10 games) he rushed for 1,696 yards on 235 carries and scored 16 touchdowns while also catching 19 passes for 326 yards and four scores • as a sophomore (10 games) he carried the ball 156 times for 1,064 yards and scored nine touchdowns and also caught 46 passes for 592 yards and eight touchdowns • as a freshman (5 games) he gained 814 yards on 93 carries and scored 11 times, while also making eight receptions for 135 yards and one score • coached by Chris Parker • also lettered in basketball • ranked as a three-star prospect by ESPN, Rivals and 247Sports, while Scout gave him two stars • Rivals lists him as the No. 65 running back, while 247Sports has him at No. 101 and ESPN has him at No. 146 • Rivals pegs him as the No. 68 prospect in Georgia, while 247Sports has him at No. 120 and ESPN slotted him at No. 144.
PERSONAL: Born Oct. 9, 1996 • son of Sharon Brooks • guardian is Melissa Weeks • has one brother (Kalyn).
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Game 7: Illinois at Minnesota
Minnesota hosts Illinois at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium. The game can be watched on the Big Ten Network and can be heard on KFAN.