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Minnesota Football 2023 Preview: Upgrade / Downgrade Running Back

Mohamed Ibrahim departs, will this opportunity mean an upgrade or a downgrade for Gopher running backs?


I’ve been doing these upgrade/downgrade posts here for several years and this may be the single easiest to call. Zero offense to the 2023 stable of backs on the Gopher roster, but when you graduate the school’s all-time leading rusher, leader in touchdowns, and an are unlikely to see an upgrade the following season.


Starter: Mohamed Ibrahim
Depth: Trey Potts, Bryce Williams, Zach Evans

Ibrahim rushed for 1,665 yards, 20 touchdowns and really showed the world that he bounced back from an Achilles tear. He led the Big Ten in rushing and eventually signed an undrafted free-agent contract with the Detroit Lions.

The Gophers notoriously ran the ball at a greater frequency than any D1 program outside of the military service academies and Ibrahim was that workhorse. This resulted in Ibrahim leading the Big Ten yards, carries, touchdowns and was 8th in yards per carry (with guys having at least 100 carries). What more can be said about Ibrahim, he was a treat to watch.

Trey Potts did manage to have 101 carries, Bryce Williams had 51 and Zach Evans was able to play in a few games to maintain his redshirt status. But this was the Ibrahim show accounting for nearly 65% of all running back carries.


Starter: Sean Tyler
Depth: Zach Evans, Bryce Williams,
Freshmen: Darius Taylor, Marquese Williams

Well, things are going to look very different in the Gopher backfield this year. Ibrahim is moving on to try and make it on an NFL roster while Potts has transferred to Penn State.

So the Gopher staff hit the portal to bring in the dynamic Sean Tyler from Western Michigan and he is the likely favorite as the starter going into camp. Tyler brings speed to the backfield, dynamic speed. He finished 5th in the MAC in rushing last season while playing on a very anemic offense. The Broncos struggled at quarterback with both QBs completing less than 50% of their passes and combining for 12 interceptions to just 9 touchdowns on the season. So Tyler faced stacked boxes and still managed to rush for over 1,000 yards while playing on the lowest-scoring offense in the MAC.

But let us not forget about Zach Evans, the redshirt freshman back who has consistently received high praise from the coaching staff since arriving on campus. He is part of the pair and a spare formula that Fleck has utilized most seasons here. Evans is a bigger back and I am very excited to see him get significant carries this season.

Bryce Williams is coming back for his 6th season with the program and will provide much needed leadership and experience to this very young room of Gopher RBs. Due to injuries, Williams was thrown into the fire as a freshman in 2018. He ran for over 500 yards and 4 TDs with 117 carries. He hasn’t accumulated that many carries collectively since then, but will be integral this year in the backfield.

And then we have a couple incoming true freshmen in Taylor and another Williams. Taylor was one of the offensive centerpieces to the 2023 recruiting class and has a bright future for the Gophers. Ideally this will be a year for both of these freshmen to get acclimated, maybe get some action in a few games while maintaining their redshirt status.


Undoubtedly this has to be considered a downgrade, but this has nothing to do with the talent of the 2023 backfield. You are simply not replacing Ibrahim’s talent and production.

With that said, this may still be one of the best backfields in the Big Ten. Tyler brings some speed that we haven’t seen in a long time and there are a number of talented young backs that we should be rather excited about.

Looking forward to all of these backs getting an opportunity and a more balanced offense.


Will RB be an upgrade or a downgrade this season?

This poll is closed

  • 6%
    UPGRADE - I’ll have what he’s having
    (24 votes)
  • 40%
    NEUTRAL - love these young backs, you’ll see
    (148 votes)
  • 52%
    DOWNGRADE - inevitable, but it’s fine
    (190 votes)
362 votes total Vote Now