Spring Preview: Running Backs

One of the defining traits throughout the Glen Mason tenure at the University of Minnesota was the running game, more specifically the running backs. In his eight years at Minnesota Glen Mason produced eleven 1,000-yard rushers. The four years following his firing the Gophers failed to field even one 1,000-yard rusher.

Needless to say Golden Gopher fans will be happy to know that under Jerry Kill Northern Illinois produced two 1,000-yard rushers. The Huskies rushing attack increased from 1626 yards the years before he arrived to 2,226 yards in 2008, 2,537 in 2009, and finally 3,645 yards in 2010. The Gophers on the other hand have gone 1,350 yards, 1,293 yards and 1,623 yards in those same three seasons. This coming season the Gophers have a stable of running backs with a good mixture of youth and experience.

The Running Backs

DeLeon Eskridge: The senior from Juniperro Serra High School (CA.) was rated a two-star prospect, No. 149 running back by Scout.com and was part of the 2008 Golden Gophers recruiting class. Eskridge has played in 37 games and started 16 rushing for 1,721 yards and 17 touchdowns. Over his three year career as a Gopher Eskridge has evolved from an off-tackle type running back to a more of the between the tackles type running back.

Eskridge has good burst through the hole and has the ability to run over potential tacklers. He has also shown that he can be a bell-cow type back when given the opportunity. One thing he seems to have lost over the years is that extra gear to pull away from defenders. Despite that he has proven himself to be a dependable back when given the majority of the carries.

Duane Bennett: The senior from O'Fallon Township High School (MO.) was rated two-star prospect, unrated running back by Scout.com and was part of the 2007 Golden Gophers recruiting class. Bennett has played in 37 games with 24 starts and has rushed for 1,506 yards, 14 touchdown, 856 receiving yards and five receiving touchdowns.

In his four years as a Gopher been has shown game breaking ability both rushing the ball and receiving out of the back field, but has also had trouble staying healthy. Bennett is a very good running back who hits the hole hard and fast and can make good cuts and is our best third down back with his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.

Lamonte Edwards: The redshirt freshman from Woodbury High School (MN.) was rated a three-star prospect, No. 86 outside linebacker by Scout.com and was part of the 2010 Golden Gophers recruiting class. Edwards has a very nice blend of speed and power. Edwards does a nice job of finding the hole and setting up blocks and has an extra gear that he uses to pull away from defenders. The coaching staff is already raving about how they need to have him on the field in some way shape or form so it will be no surprise if he takes over the reins as starting running back sometime this season.

Donnell Kirkwood: The redshirt freshman from Atlantic High School (FL.) was rated two-star prospect, No. 149 running back by Scout.com and was part of the 2010 Golden Gophers recruiting class. Kirkwood appeared in four games gaining 112 yards before his season ended due to a leg injury and received a medical hardship waiver. Kirkwood has very good balance and is tough to bring down by one defender. He is more of a one cut down-hill type back who runs through arm tackles. He always keeps his feet moving and pushing for that one extra yard.

Devon Wright: The redshirt freshman from Taravella High School (FL.) was rated a two-star prospect, No. 111 running back by Scout.com and was part of the 2010 Golden Gophers recruiting class. Wright has not been able to join the team as of yet due to eligibility issues but is taking classes and will be joining the team next fall. He is a speedy running back who can make a cut and get through the hole and up the field. He is good at finding the hole and then using his speed to get out and down the sideline.

David Cobb: The incoming freshman from C.E. Ellison High School (TX.) was a rated a three-star prospect, No. 98 running back by Scout.com and is part of the 2011 Golden Gophers recruiting class. As of right now Cobb is listed as an athlete on the gophersports.com roster. He is a downhill runner who makes one cut and is through the hole and is more of a between the tackles type running back. Cobb gets downhill quickly and can run through arm and shoulder tackles. In the open field he doesn't have breakaway speed but can run over defensive backs and has good change of direction.


Overall the Gophers have a very good young stable of running backs with a lot of talent and it would not surprise me if one of them gets shifted to another position later on. With the new offense that is now in place and the quality of running backs the Gophers should be back to turning out 1,000 yard running backs.


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