For those of you who might’ve missed the memo, The Daily Gopher is counting down the Top 10 players on the current football roster. TDG staff members were asked to submit their rankings based on on-field performance and those selections were used to create a composite set of rankings. We’ll be unveiling our Top 10 every couple days over the next week.
Our countdown continues with running back Shannon Brooks at No. 3.
Brooks had a breakout freshman season as a Gopher. He saw just one snap in the first three games of the season — and it was a botched handoff that ended up a fumble — yet finished the season with 709 rushing yards on 119 attempts and seven touchdowns. Those seven touchdowns included runs of 75, 71, 40, and 38 yards, which made Brooks the first Gopher since Laurence Maroney in 2005 to have four touchdown runs longer than 35 yards in one season.
He also averaged 6.0 yards per carry — the 11th best mark in school history and the third best for a freshman behind only Maroney and Marion Barber III — and was recognized as Big Ten Freshman of the Week on three different occasions.
As a sophomore last year, Brooks missed the first two games of the season with a broken foot, and sat out against Purdue later in the season due to an undisclosed injury. While Brooks was sidelined, Rodney Smith seized control of the running back position en route to a 1,000-yard rushing season. Brooks, for whatever reason, wasn’t the same home run threat that he was a freshman. He finished the season with a solid 650 rushing yards on 138 attempts with five touchdowns, but his longest run of the season was a 37-yard scamper against Penn State. His yards per carry dropped from 6.0 as a freshman to 4.7 as a sophomore.
It’s not much of a stretch to wonder if Brooks’ lack of explosiveness last season was due to lingering effects from his injuries, but even if he was limited, he still had a very productive season splitting carries with Smith. He was also more of a threat in the passing game, hauling in eight receptions for 76 yards and two touchdowns.
Regardless of last season, there is no reason not to be excited about the Gophers’ backfield this fall. Brooks represents half of one of the best running back tandems in the Big Ten, and as long as he remains healthy, the Gopher ground game is in great shape.
TDG’s Top 10 Gopher Football Players:
No. 3 - Shannon Brooks
No. 4 - Antoine Winfield, Jr.
No. 5 - Jonathan Celestin
No. 6 - Emmit Carpenter
No. 7 - Cody Poock
No. 8 - Rashad Still
No. 9 - Blake Cashman
No. 10 - Ryan Santoso
Be sure to check back on Friday as we reveal No. 2!