Spring Wrap: Running Backs

With the loss of Duane Bennett, the Gophers are now faced with the task of finding a new starting running back. Spring practice was essentially a tryout for running back group that has less than 100 combined carries at the Division I level. While no clear front runner became clear, the young running backs showed promise in practice.

The Leader

With the most experience of the group, redshirt sophomore Donnell Kirkwood was expected to take over the starting job this spring. Throughout most of practice, Kirkwood was hindered by an injured hamstring and was forced to rehab his injury rather than take part in contact drills. Despite his limited carries, Kirkwood looked strong in the spring game, picking up 25 yards on five carries. If Kirkwood can stay healthy, he appears like he will get a significant amount of carries next season.

The Challengers

David Cobb and Devon Wright have only combined for 11 career carries but both had strong springs. Cobb looked noticeably bigger and every bit the 220 pounds he is listed at. With Kirkwood out for much of the spring, Cobb found himself playing with the first team offense quite often. He showcased his size and speed throughout practice, running past defenders and easily slipping by arm tackles. Cobb was also good at holding onto the ball and not fumbling. Late in spring practice, Cobb was sidelined with a knee injury and was forced out of the spring game. He should be healthy for fall camp and looks poised to make an impact.

A highly recruited player coming out of high school, Devon Wright has yet to play significant minutes as a Gopher. Wright has the athleticism and size to be a solid running back which he showed throughout the spring. He always hit the holes hard and was able to pick up big gains once hitting the second level of the defense. What was most impressive was Wright's ability to pass block. Multiple times throughout the spring, Wright would step up and take on a blitzing linebacker or cornerback and keep them from the quarterback. Like Cobb, Wright was hindered late in the spring by an injury and was unable to participate in the spring game.

The Newcomer

One of the most impressive running backs was JUCO transfer James Gillum. Gillum is a stocky runner who has a strong running style with a quick burst. He had some of the biggest plays of the spring on some long runs in which he showcased his SEC-style speed. Gillum capped off a strong spring with 30 yards rushing in the spring game, a scrimmage in which the defense was dominant. As the oldest member of the running backs, Gillum will likely split the majority of the carries with Kirkwood and Cobb.

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