Saturday, August 10, 2013

Gopher Football: RB Preview

Pop Quiz:  Who was the last 1,000 yard rusher for your Golden Gophers?

Answer: In 2006 Amir Pinnix ran for 1,272 yards.  2006 was the last of 8 consecutive seasons with a runner getting at least 1,000 yards under Glen Mason.  Some quick "where-are-they-now-according-to-googling" shows that Pinnix now works as a commodity trader for Cargill in his home town of Raleigh.  So he's putting that business marketing degree to good work.

What followed of course was that Glen was let go and left the recruiting cupboard pretty bare.  Then Brewster showed up, took a shit in the cupboard, and set it on fire.

2013 has the potential to see a return to those 1,000 yard rushing days.  In 2012, Donnell Kirkwood ran for 926 yards and 6 touchdowns.  Now a red-shirt junior, Kirkwood is a 5'10" 223lb bowling ball that does damage between the tackles.  He averaged 4.25 yards per carry last season and is more of a grinder than a big play guy.  Here's his longest run of 2012:

Kirkwood has the right attitude about the upcoming season, "Everybody keeps talking about this is a 1,000-yard season," Kirkwood said. "As long as I'm a productive running back, it really doesn't matter how many yards I get." (source)  He seems like a humble, hard-working guy and that makes him fun to cheer for.  Follow him on twitter @Tonka_Toy20 believes Kirkwood could draw some NFL interest due to his style of play: "Thick, powerful, between-the-tackles runner who led the team in rushing as a sophomore with 926 yards and six rushing touchdowns on 218 carries. Possesses some natural explosiveness and good vision, and could draw attention from NFL teams looking for a one-cut, zone-scheme runner to add to their backfield."

Kirkwood apparently got those powerful legs in part because of Donnell Sr's welding skills. In this Joe Christensen article we learn that Donnell Sr. built a sled out of steel for his son to drag around. 

Donnell isn't the only power back on the roster though.  As a freshman last year, Rodrick Williams ran for 261 yards and 2 touchdowns.  His 4.6 yards per carry was better than Kirkwood's and I think that he has a little more flash to his game.  At 5'11", 235 lbs he has a similar build to the starter.  Nugget's biggest game was probably the Meineke Car Care Bowl game against Texas Tech where he ran for 60 yards and a TD on 12 carries.  Williams was pressed into service rather than red-shirting last season.  This was due to other players, namely James Gillum not being able to carry the load that was originally expected.

Oh, and if you don't already know, he's nicknamed Nugget because he apparently ate 50 chicken nuggets in a sitting when he visited the school.  Which is pretty awesome.

With two bruisers the Gophers are in need of some speed in the backfield.  Last season, we saw David Cobb, Devon Wright and even wide-receiver KJ Maye attempt to fill that change of pace rolem, but all were largely ineffective.  This year, we might very well see a lot of true freshman Berkley Edwards in that role.  Edwards is a diminutive 5'9" and 190 lbs, but has exceptional acceleration and speed.  Coming from Novi, Michigan Edwards was a 3-star recruit and a top 70 running back in the nation.  His older brother, Braylon Edwards said it was a big mistake that Michigan didn't recruit 

Additional depth will be provided by James Gillum (Sr), David Cobb (Jr), Cole Banham (RSJr) and JoJuan Harper (RSSo).  Although I believe Harper is not on the 105 man roster.

Of course, a big part of the Limegrover offense is a running quarterback.  Between Gray (390) and Nelson (184) there was nearly 600 rushing yards (you add it) to be had from the QB position. I expect we'll approach that number again with Nelson and Mitch Leidner scampering about.  

Other Preview(s) available:

QB Preview

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