DeLeon Eskridge, Minnesota's leading rusher last season, will not return to the Gophers for his senior season.
The 21-year-old running back, who gained 698 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground last season, both tops on the Gophers, has been granted a release from his scholarship, the university announced Friday. Eskridge asked for his release in order to deal with a family situation and intends to transfer to a school closer to his San Francisco home.
"He and I both felt it was in his best interest to make this decision," coach Jerry Kill said.
In addition to Eskridge's departure, the Gophers announced that backup tight end Tiree Eure will also leave the team, and that two new recruits -- wide receiver Malcolm Moulton from Fort Scott (Kansas) Community College, and quarterback Dexter Foreman of Manvel (Texas) High, have been added for this fall's squad.
Eskridge's departure leaves the Gophers' backfield with one other senior, Duane Bennett, who shared the position with Eskridge last season and gained 529 yards and three touchdowns.
In addition, Minnesota has three redshirt freshmen at the position: Donnell Kirkwood, who gained 107 yards in four games before a leg injury ended his season; LaMonte Edwards, from Woodbury High; and Devon Wright, a Floridan who intends to regain his academic eligibility by fall camp.
With that depth, plus the running ability of quarterback MarQueis Gray, should allow the Gophers to absorb the loss of Eskridge, who finishes his Minnesota career with 1,706 yards in 451 carries over three seasons, an average of 3.78 yards per carry, and 46.1 yards per game. Eskridge, who also led the Gophers in rushing in 2008 as a freshman, scored 17 career touchdowns.
Eure, a senior who transferred from Lackawanna College and served as backup to Eric Lair at tight end, caught three passes for 47 yards and a touchdown in his lone season with the Gophers. No reason was given for his departure. "Things just didn't work out for Tiree," Kill said.
Foreman and especially Moulton will add depth to positions that need it, according to Kill. "After spring ball, we felt we had an issue with depth at the receiver position," the coach said, so he used his Kansas juco connections to recruit Moulton. The Gwinnett, Ga., native caught 44 passes for 714 yards and five touchdowns at Fort Scott last season, and will have three seasons of eligibility with the Gophers.
Foreman passed for more than 3,000 career yards and 30 touchdowns at Manvel High, and last season rushed for 402 yards as well. He completed 90 of 142 passes as a senior, with 10 touchdowns, five interceptions and 1,198 yards.
"We'd like to create some more competition at quarterback," Kill said.