The Gophers listed two tailbacks on their official depth chart heading into last year’s season opener against UNLV. David Cobb wasn’t one of them.
They had Donnell Kirkwood, coming off a 926-yard rushing season in 2012, listed as the starter with Rodrick Williams listed as the No. 2 tailback. Cobb had sat mostly idle his first two years on campus, but that night against UNLV changed everything.
Kirkwood sprained an ankle, and Cobb took advantage of his chance. In the fourth quarter, he took a handoff and raced 60 yards in what would be the team’s longest carry of the season.
“Last year I didn’t know when I would get into the [first] game or what quarter,” Cobb said. “I just knew when I got into the game, I wanted to do something so I could maybe have a chance of staying in the game.”
He never looked back, finishing the season with 1,202 yards. Now he’s a senior, heading into another opener Thursday against Eastern Illinois, carrying a much different status.
“He’s not the same back he was a year ago at this time, not even close,” coach Jerry Kill said Tuesday. “He’s worked very hard. He’s had a tremendous camp, and he’s just different. His body’s changed. He’s increased his speed. I think he gained confidence throughout the year, and we gained more confidence in him.”
Jones moves into dorm
Gophers running back recruit Jeff Jones has moved into a university dorm and is getting ready to start class when fall semester begins Tuesday.
The NCAA still needs to weigh in on Jones’ eligibility status, but people close to the situation said Tuesday that Jones has been assured he’ll get his scholarship. Though no one with the program is expecting Jones to play this season, this bodes well for the top recruit’s 2015 playing status.
Last month, coach Jerry Kill said the most important thing was getting Jones into school so he’d be ready to compete next season, after David Cobb and Donnell Kirkwood graduate.
Jones, who was admitted to the university this month, came just short of qualifying academically for Division I when he graduated from Minneapolis Washburn. He took summer school courses, and he was prepared in July to appeal for an NCAA initial eligibility waiver. It’s unclear exactly where that process stands.
Unless the NCAA gives full approval to an eligibility waiver, Jones wouldn't be able to practice or play with the team this fall. The NCAA could grant Jones partial approval of an initial eligibility waiver, in which case he would need at least a 2.50 GPA in the fall semester before he’ll be able to eligible for spring practice.
In the meantime, he’d be able to work out with the team’s strength and conditioning staff.
The Gophers listed wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky and defensive end Michael Amaefula as questionable on their first official injury report.
Left tackle Ben Lauer, who is coming back from a high ankle sprain, wasn’t on the injury report, but he was listed on the second team on the depth chart. As expected, Josh Campion is listed as the first-team left tackle, with Jonah Pirsig set to get his first career start at right tackle.
The Gophers listed Cobb as their starting tailback, with Williams, Kirkwood and Berkley Edwards listed as options for the No. 2 tailback spot. Edwards likely will line up as a receiver when other tailbacks are on the field.
The Gophers list Tyler Hartman as their starting fullback with Miles Thomas as the backup.
For the starting secondary, the Gophers listed Antonio Johnson and Cedric Thompson at safety, with Eric Murray and Derrick Wells at cornerback.
Also notable: The Gophers listed true freshman Brandon Lingen as the backup to Maxx Williams at tight end.
The weather forecast calls for a high of 67 degrees Thursday with a 60 percent chance of rain. That would be considerably different from last year’s season opener against UNLV. It was 92 degrees for kickoff that night.