I’m moving over to the offense today for the third player in this series. I’ve been focusing on upper classmen so far, and here’s another one:
Position: Running back
2013 class: Fourth-year Junior
High School: Delray Beach (Fla.) Atlantic
Recruiting flashback: Part of Tim Brewster’s final Gophers recruiting class, Kirkwood was listed as a three-star recruit by Rivals.com, with offers from Kansas State, Pittsburgh and Rutgers. He was a first-team all-conference pick as a junior at Atlantic High School, with 1,013 yards, but slipped to second-team all-conference with 491 yards as a senior.
Early college: In 2010, he played in four games and rushed 27 times for 107 yards but injured his leg and was granted a medical redshirt. In 2011, he rushed 63 yards for 229 yards and three touchdowns.
2012 rewind: Kirkwood missed most of spring practice with a hamstring injury but emerged as the team’s go-to tailback early in the fall. He finished the season with 218 carries for 926 yards and six touchdowns, including a 28/152/2 TD performance in the victory over Illinois.
2013 outlook: The Gophers haven't had a 1,000-yard rusher since Amir Pinnix in 2006. After coming 74 yards short of that benchmark last year, Kirkwood could eclipse it this year, especially as the offensive line continues to grow and mature. As a true freshman, Rodrick Williams saw an increasing role in the offense late in the season and had a 12/60/1 TD performance in the bowl game. With those two established, it’ll be interesting to see if the Gophers redshirt incoming recruit Berkley Edwards.