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Minnesota Football: Rodney Smith is No. 1 in TDG’s Top 10

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The explosive Gopher running back is No. 1 in your program and No. 1 in our Top 10 as we wrap up our countdown

NCAA Football: Holiday Bowl-Minnesota vs Washington State Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

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’ve been unveiling our Top 10 every couple days over the last few weeks.

Our countdown concludes with running back Rodney Smith at No. 1.

Smith had big shoes to fill stepping in for the departed David Cobb, who set the school’s season single rushing record in his senior season as a Gopher.

As a redshirt freshman, Smith started strong as the Gophers’ feature back, rushing for 363 yards and one touchdown through the first four games of the season. But aside from a valiant performance against Michigan, he faded down the stretch, in large part due to the emergence of Shannon Brooks and because of an ankle injury that hobbled him around the midpoint of the regular season. Smith would finish the year with 670 rushing yards and three touchdowns. While Brooks had earned a reputation as a home run threat, Smith’s longest run of his redshirt freshman season was a 37-yarder in the bowl game.

But in his sophomore season, Smith stepped up his game.

Here is a list of his accomplishments from last season:

  • First sophomore running back at Minnesota to rush for 1,000 yards in a single season since Laurence Maroney in 2004. Just four of the Gophers’ current top 10 all-time leading rushers rushed for more than 1,000 yards as a sophomore.
  • Finished the season with 1,158 rushing yards, ranking 41st in the nation and fourth in the Big Ten. Smith also averaged 4.8 yards per carry and scored 16 rushing touchdowns, ranking 16th in the nation and second in the Big Ten.
  • Including his 94-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Rutgers, Smith’s 17 total touchdowns are the second most in school history for a single season.
  • Rushed for more than 100 yards in six games, and scored at least one touchdown in all but three games. He scored multiple touchdowns in six games, including three against Purdue.
  • Named Third Team All-Big Ten by the coaches and media, and was also named named Offensive MVP of the Holiday Bowl after scoring one touchdown and recording 132 all-purpose yards against Washington State.

Smith is a special talent, and the fact that he’ll be in the backfield for Minnesota this fall is one reason to be excited for the upcoming season of Gopher football.

Just don’t forget to wave.

TDG’s Top 10 Gopher Football Players:

No. 1 - Rodney Smith

No. 2 - Steven Richardson

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

In the interest of transparency (and also so you can properly attribute any shade you may wish to cast upon us for our selections), here are the Top 10s from the TDG staffers who contributed:

TDG Staffers’ Top 10s

Rank dvits14 GoAUpher IowaGopher gopherguy05 mowe0018 Ustreet wildcat00
Rank dvits14 GoAUpher IowaGopher gopherguy05 mowe0018 Ustreet wildcat00
1 Steven Richardson Steven Richardson Rodney Smith Rodney Smith Steven Richardson Emmit Carpenter Shannon Brooks
2 Rodney Smith Rodney Smith Steven Richardson Steven Richardson Rodney Smith Steven Richardson Rodney Smith
3 Shannon Brooks Shannon Brooks Shannon Brooks Shannon Brooks Cody Poock Rodney Smith Emmit Carpenter
4 Jonathan Celestin Antoine Winfield, Jr. Jonathan Celestin Jonathan Celestin Antoine Winfield, Jr. Antoine Winfield, Jr. Rashad Still
5 Antoine Winfield, Jr. Blake Cashman Ryan Santoso Emmit Carpenter Shannon Brooks Jonathan Celestin Antoine Winfield, Jr.
6 Cody Poock Cody Poock Antoine Winfield, Jr. Antoine Winfield, Jr. Rashad Still Shannon Brooks Cody Poock
7 Brandon Lingen Rashad Still Rashad Still Ryan Santoso Ryan Santoso Kamal Martin Blake Cashman
8 Blake Cashman Jonathan Celestin Emmit Carpenter Blake Cashman Jonathan Celestin Blake Cashman Steven Richardson
9 Rashad Still Emmit Carpenter Duke McGhee Brandon Lingen Blake Cashman Carter Coughlin Jonathan Celestin
10 Carter Coughlin Ryan Santoso Brandon Lingen Rashad Still Emmit Carpenter Tyler Johnson Ryan Santoso

Now it’s your turn! We’re done now. Share your Top 10 in the comments.