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Minnesota Football: Spring Position Preview - Running Backs

With Shannon Brooks out for the season, the Gophers look to an unproven running back corps to help Rodney Smith

Illinois v Minnesota Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

The Minnesota Golden Gophers will take on the Golden Gophers of Minnesota in a spring game showdown at noon on Saturday, April 14, at TCF Bank Stadium. Leading up to the game, we’ll be taking a look at the outlook for each position group.

Key Departure(s): Kobe McCrary
Key Returner(s): Rodney Smith, Jonathan Femi-Cole, Mohamed Ibrahim, and Dominik London
Early Enrollee(s): None

Everyone knows Rodney Smith. The redshirt senior has rushed for 2,805 yards on 626 attempts with 21 touchdowns over the last three seasons and led the team in rushing yards for the last two. Smith will arguably be the Gophers’ most valuable offensive player this fall.

But he can’t do it alone.

Head coach P.J. Fleck has emphasized the need for “a pair and a spare” at running back. Last season, he had exactly that with Smith, Shannon Brooks, and Kobe McCrary.

McCrary graduated after finishing second on the team in rushing last season with 496 rushing yards on 94 attempts with eight touchdowns. Brooks will redshirt this fall after suffering a non-contact lower leg injury that will cost him the entire season.

Thus far, redshirt freshman Mohamed Ibrahim seems to be first in line to help ease the workload for Smith. Ibrahim, who has been receiving the bulk of the second team reps this spring, is a between-the-tackles back with good vision. He isn’t a burner, but Ibrahim is adept at finding the hole and accelerating through it. Ibrahim also takes care of the ball, which is important because, as you know, the ball is the program.

Behind Ibrahim for the moment are redshirt junior Jonathan Femi-Cole and redshirt freshman Dominik London. Femi-Cole had a breakout performance at last year’s spring game, but hasn’t been able to translate that into playing time. London is an elusive back who excels in pass protection and at catching the ball out of the backfield.

The competition will be between those three in the spring, but don’t rule out true freshmen Nolan Edmonds and Bryce Williams. One of those two could turn heads in fall camp.

Next: Wide Receivers