After rushing for nearly 3,000 yards as a Texas high school standout, David Cobb has made very little impact in two seasons with the Gophers. But teammates and coaches still speak of him with a certain reverence.
Donnell Kirkwood, who led the Gophers with 958 rushing yards last year, said Cobb is one of the running backs he studies, looking for ways to dodge tacklers. Offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover said Cobb “may very well have the best vision of any of our running backs.”
“He’s the kind of kid who can make you look good as an offensive line coach because he can make something out of nothing,” Limegrover said.
That’s high praise for a player who rushed 10 times for 57 yards as a freshman — and one time for 8 yards last season. Cobb drifted into the background last year, as the Gophers relied heavily on Kirkwood and true freshman Rodrick Williams (267 rushing yards).
But Cobb is generating some buzz again this spring. In the Gophers’ first full-contact scrimmage, April 12, they took a long look at him with the first-team offense. Limegrover later explained that the coaches already knew what Kirkwood could do but needed to know more about other players.
With James Gillum out for the rest of the spring with a knee injury, the 5-11, 225-pound Cobb seems to be asserting himself, at least as the top option behind Kirkwood and Williams.
“Everybody’s apple turns red at a different time,” head coach Jerry Kill said. “I think injuries have held [Cobb] back, as he’s had a hamstring or something’s always happened. His concentration and focus have been good. But it’s a growing-up process. Some kids come in and they’re not ready to mature as quickly as others.”
Cobb acknowledged as much himself. The junior looks back on two hard seasons of learning experiences.
“As a competitor, it’s tough,” he said. “I mean, you come to college and you want to play. You don’t want to waste any years sitting on the bench. But at the same time, it kind of humbles you. It lets you know this is not high school. You have to come out and compete every day. It’s not so much about who’s the fastest and who can run the ball.”
Cobb had nearly 1,400 yards and 17 touchdowns as a senior at Ellison High School in Killeen, Texas. In Gophers practices, he continued to impress with the football in his hands, but his actions without the ball left coaches frustrated.
“I would say my freshman and sophomore year, I didn’t bring much to the table with pass blocking,” Cobb said. “Now I’ve gotten better. I’ve grown a lot as a player, but I still have a lot of work to do.”
No matter how much production the Gophers eventually get from Cobb, his presence helped them land his cousin, Damien Wilson, out of junior college. Wilson is fighting to be the starting middle linebacker.
“We actually grew up together in Mississippi,” Cobb said. “My dad’s in the military, so we moved away for a little bit, but we’re close cousins. He’s like my brother.”
The Gophers haven’t made Wilson available for interviews yet, but other players seem to enjoy having him around.
“He’s cousins with David Cobb, and they’re both one of a kind,” senior linebacker Aaron Hill said. “They’ve both got wild personalities. They’re probably some of the funniest people on the team. They come from the South, they’ve got the Southern accent, so they like to have fun.”
• The Gophers moved Saturday’s 10 a.m. practice from TCF Bank Stadium to their Gibson-Nagurski indoor complex, but they still plan to hold their second full-contact scrimmage. Like spring practices, it’s open to the public.