Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Five Players to Know From Minnesota

Dylan Burn of Hawkeye Insider brings you five Golden Gophers that will impact this Saturday's game in Minnesota.

Rodney Smith

Smith entered the year in competition with Shannon Brooks for the RB1 spot.  But four games into the season, it is Smith who has received most of the carries mostly because back in early August Brooks injured his foot and was reportedly out for 3-5 weeks.  He has carried the ball 82 times for 402 yards and five touchdowns through four games.  He only weighs about 205 pounds, but really packs a punch when he's running the football.  He's shifty and illusive, which isn't good for an Iowa defense that has struggled stopping the run.  

The Gophers like to run a lot of misdirection to get defenses confused and that is something Iowa has really struggled with all season so far.  Offenses are able to confuse the defensive line and by the time they figure it out, the ball carrier has already picked up positive yardage. Smith is a candidate to do the same thing on Saturday. 

He went over 100 yards in their opener against Oregon State and in this past week's game against Penn State, so Minnesota is definitely bringing a legitimate rushing attack to the table on Saturday.

Shannon Brooks

Brooks is a guy that I thought would be the unquestioned starter heading into this season and probably would have been, but then went down with that foot injury.  Brooks rushed 119 times for 709 yards and 7 TD's in his true freshman season and was primed for a big role in the Gopher offense entering this season. 

Brooks is very similar to Smith.  He's a tad undersized, but is quick and illusive in small spaces.  He's a guy that makes people miss consistently.  He has only played in two games this season, once against Colorado State and the other against Penn State in their Big Ten opener.  He has rushed 27 times for 185 yards and two TD's, so he is another Gopher back that we will see get action on Saturday. 

Brooks actually averaged over six yards per carry last year against the Hawkeyes in Iowa City.

Mitch Leidner

Leidner is Minnesota's fifth year QB and one of the most experienced in the Big Ten.  He's played in 39 games during his career as a Golden Gopher and has been the starter for the past three seasons.  Leidner usually performs well against the Hawkeyes.  In two starts he has completed 29-40 passes for 397 yards and five touchdowns.  He was automatic back in 2014 when Minnesota rolled the Hawkeyes and did play well last season when the Gophers lost a shootout in Iowa City.

He's passed for 840 yards so far this season and is completing nearly 63% of his passes, but will be up against two Iowa corners that know him and are very talented as well.

Leidner does not like Iowa, he has made that very clear, and plays with a chip on his shoulder every time he meets the Hawkeyes mostly because he felt strung along in the recruiting process.  

He is a candidate to get outside the pocket and make plays with his feet, so Iowa will need to be alert for that as well.  Keeping contain will be a major key on Saturday.

My guess is he'll want to go out on a high note against the Hawkeyes.

Jalen Myrick

Myrick is one of the most experienced guys Minnesota has to offer on the defensive side of ball.  He's a four year guy, he's played in 38 games over the course of his career, and is Minnesota's best cornerback.  Myrick had three interceptions last season, but has yet to intercept the QB this year.  He's recorded 14 tackles this season to go along with 1.5 for a loss.

Another quality that Myrick brings to the table is that he's a valuable return man.  He is averaging 21.6 yards per return through four games this season.

I think one of the biggest things that pops out to me is that this kid is a gamer.  He welcomes the challenge of guarding the other teams number one wide receiver and does a good job of it as well.

My guess is we'll see Myrick follow Riley McCarron and Jerminic Smith around a bit on Saturday.

Jack Lynn

Lynn is another experienced guy on the defensive side of the football for the Gophers.

This would be his third year starting at a linebacker position for the Gophers and he has racked up 160 total tackles during that time.  He is off to a good start this season considering he is leading the Gophers with 27 total tackles.  He's also tallied one tackle for a loss and a half of sack.

He doesn't really jump out at you on film, but a big reason why is the fact that he's just so solid, nothing real flashy.  He's rarely out of position, he's a good tackler, and just an overall smart football player. 

He played really well in the Penn State game, getting into running lanes to stop ball carriers, and making open field tackles as to not let Penn State pick up extra yardage.

Hawkeye Insider Top Stories