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Minnesota Football: Spring Position Preview - Running Back

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the healthiest running back of them all?

Quick Lane Bowl - Minnesota v Georgia Tech Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

I say, “SPRING,” you say, “POSITION PREVIEWS!”

I say, “SPRING,” you say, “POSITION PREVIEWS!”

That’s right. The hiatus is over. Football is back! Well, the spring version of football, at least. And in the weeks leading up to the Minnesota Golden Gophers’ spring game at 11 a.m. on Saturday, April 13, at TCF Bank Stadium, we’ll be breaking down each position group.

Key Departure(s): None
Key Returner(s): Rodney Smith, Shannon Brooks, Mohamed Ibrahim, Bryce Williams, and Nolan Edmonds
Early Enrollee(s): Treyson Potts and Jason Williamson

Last season was supposed to be the swan song for Rodney Smith, but that plan didn’t last long after he tore his ACL against Fresno State on his first carry of the game. Now he’ll return as a sixth-year senior. Shannon Brooks was expected to play in at least four games while redshirting due to an ACL tear suffered during the previous winter’s workouts, but that plan didn’t last long either after he tore his ACL in his return to game action against Indiana. He’ll still be back as a fifth-year senior, but will now have had ACL tears in both knees.

It’s uncertain what to expect from either of them. Smith has been cleared for spring practice, but I doubt he’ll see many snaps, if any, in the spring game. Brooks won’t see the practice field at all as he continues his rehab. So the question of how much they’ll be to able to contribute on the field in the fall will not be answered this spring. Will they be healthy? Will they be able to stay healthy? Will they be able to play at the level to which we’ve become accustomed during their playing careers? All questions that effectively make Smith and Brooks wild cards next season.

Fortunately, the Gophers have a known commodity in the form of redshirt sophomore running back Mohamed Ibrahim. You’ll remember I gushed about how he developed over the course of the season back when I gave my postseason evaluations:

Ibrahim missed three games due to injury, but became a force to be reckoned with as the season went along. He rushed for 1,160 yards — the second highest single-season total by a freshman at Minnesota — on 202 attempts and nine touchdowns. Ibrahim effectively carried Minnesota to the finish line against Wisconsin and Georgia Tech, accounting for a hard-fought 345 rushing yards over those two games to fuel a tough ground game.

So realistically this spring will offer a chance to see what Bryce Williams, Nolan Edmonds, Treyson Potts, and Jason Williamson can do. Williams is the most experienced of the group, rushing for 502 yards and four touchdowns last season as a true freshman, while Edmonds redshirted. Potts will be limited for most, if not all, of spring practice while he recovers from an ACL tear suffered as a high school senior last fall. That opens the door for Jason Williamson to prove he belongs. Pegged by some to end up on the defensive side of the ball when all is said and done, the Owatonna native and last year’s Mr. Football will get first crack at running back after rushing for 3,012 yards and 46 rushing touchdowns as a high school senior.

Next: Wide Receiver