Shannon Brooks entered TCF Bank Stadium on crutches for Saturday’s Gophers scrimmage, a broken bone in his right foot repaired with a screw. As reported earlier in the week, the team’s leading rusher will miss three to five weeks.
But on a day they rested their other top running back, Rodney Smith, the Gophers unveiled yet another effective replacement.
Kobe McCrary, a transfer from Butler (Kan.) Community College, ran downhill through big holes created by the first-team offensive line, reeling off carries of 9, 17, 8 and 11 yards just on the first drive.
He finished with 14 carries for 89 yards, highlighting a strong performance for the whole offense.
“I was pleased with the way the first group in the O-line blocked, and I thought the quarterbacks made some good decisions, and for the most part we caught the ball,” Gophers coach Tracy Claeys said. “So the little fundamental things that we really didn’t do in the spring game on offense — I thought we were able to get those done.”
Claeys rested his top five linebackers — Jack Lynn, Cody Poock, Jonathan Celestin, Nick Rallis and Julian Huff — along with starting cornerback Jalen Myrick. That weakened the defense a bit, and the offense took advantage.
Other highlights included a 29-yard touchdown pass from Seth Green to Tyler Johnson — a true freshmen connection — and a 33-yard TD strike from Conor Rhoda to Melvin Holland Jr.
But it was clear how determined the coaching staff was to take a long look at McCrary throughout the one-hour scrimmage.
“We know what Rodney [Smith] can do, and we know what Shannon [Brooks] can do,” Claeys said. “It’s a matter of seeing what the other ones can do. The first three or four runs there [for McCrary], I thought we probably could have got a few more yards. But overall, I thought he did awfully well running and in pass protection.”
The 6-1, 235-pound McCrary, who is from Chipley, Fla., has two years of eligibility remaining. He rushed for 1,190 yards and led all junior college players in the nation last season with 22 touchdowns.
He bears an uncanny resemblance to David Cobb, who set a Gophers record two years ago with 1,626 rushing yards.
“I had like five people tell me that when I was on my visit,” McCrary told GopherSports.com in a recent interview. “… To say I look like him is one thing, but I want to play like him.”