Gary Russell will learn his academic status

The Minnesota Gophers signed three running backs, including JC transfer Brylee Callender, who has already enrolled in school. Callender may be pressed into service sooner than expected as leading returning rusher Gary Russell will learn his academic status with the university Friday, according to sources close to the situation.

Gary Russell signed with the Gophers out of Columbus (OH) Walnut Ridge, the same school as Minnesota wide receiver Ernie Wheelwright. He was considered a top talent, but academic concerns caused teams such as Ohio State to pass on him. Gopher assistant Mitch Browning was able to swoop in and grab the talented rusher, once he became eligible for college.

Russell has been attending classes this semester but is not offically enrolled in the university. He has a meeting with the academic appeals board and will learn his status on Friday.

If he is ruled ineligible, the Gophers would be very thin at running back with just Amir Pinnix having previous experience at the position. Freshman Jay Thomas suffered a torn ACL injury, which could force him to miss part of the upcoming season. The Gophers have returning fullback Justin Valentine, who could play runnning back, and newcomers Brylee Callender, E. J. Jones and Terrence Sherrer.

Russell rushed 164 times for 1,045 yards (6.4 yards per carry) and 18 rushing touchdowns this season. Russell, a sophomore running back, was named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week as he set career highs in rushing attempts (28), yards (188) and touchdowns (3) to lead Minnesota to a road victory at Indiana for the first time since 1985 and bowl eligibility for the fourth straight season. With Big Ten rushing leader Laurence Maroney slowed by an ankle injury, Russell stepped up with his best effort of his college career.

Russell appeared in eight games as a freshman as he finished with 144 yards on 24 carries with a long of 15 yards.

Russell was a 2004 graduate of Walnut Ridge (OH) High and was named to the SuperPrep Midwest Team. He was an all-state selection, was a three-time all-city and all-conference performer and a two-time all-county and all-area choice. Russell gained 2,136 yards and scored 29 touchdowns his senior season after rushing for 1,800 yards and 29 scores his junior season. He played in the North-South All-Star Game and also lettered in wrestling and basketball.

GoldenSports.Net will report more on the latest Russell's status with the university and team as more news becomes available.

Gopher Illustrated Top Stories