2017 Spring Preview: Running Backs
March 28, 2017

Minnesota has found great success in recent years running the ball and this year should be no different, as the Gophers boast an abundance of talent at running back.

The Maroon and Gold have five running backs on the spring roster and return almost everyone from last year’s campaign when the Gophers rushed for 2,686 yards and 34 touchdowns.

Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks will be juniors in the fall and should be two of the Big Ten’s best running backs. Smith has rushed 397 career times for 1,828 yards in 25 games, which ranks tied for 19th all-time in school history. Brooks has rushed 257 times for 1,359 yards in 22 games, which ranks 31st all-time in program history. 

Smith played in all 13 games last season and started 12. He rushed 240 times (tenth most in school history in a single season) for 1,158 yards (16th most in school history in a single season) and 16 touchdowns (third most in school history in a single season). He became the 20th Gopher ever to rush for 1,000 yards in a single season. Smith also excelled in the passing and return game as he caught 23 passes for 188 yards and returned eight kickoffs for 263 yards (included a 94-yard touchdown against Rutgers). Smith totaled 1,609 all-purpose yards (12th most in school history in a single season) and scored 17 touchdowns (tied for second in school history in a single season). His 102 points tied him for third most in school history in a single season.

Brooks was hampered a bit last year with an injury, but played in 10 games and started two. He rushed 138 times for 650 yards and scored five touchdowns. He also made eight receptions for 76 yards and hauled in two scores. Brooks in a touchdown threat anytime he touches the ball. He has rushed for 12 career touchdowns and averages 24.99 yards per touchdown.

Kobe McCrary will be a senior next season and will be in his final year with the Gophers. The junior college transfer saw limited action last season, but made a difference when he touched the ball. McCrary carried the ball 39 times for 246 yards and scored three touchdowns. His 6.2 average per carry led the team for anyone who had more than two rushes.

Jonathan Femi-Cole and Zachariah Knox round out the running backs in spring practice. Femi-Cole is a powerful back at 225 pounds. He redshirted in 2015 and did not see any game action last season. The Vaughan, Ontario, Canada native will look to get his first collegiate carries this year. Knox sat out last season at Minnesota after transferring from Minnesota State where he redshirted the previous season.


 

 

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