Gophers running back recruit Jeff Jones had his first day of class at the university Tuesday, and coach Jerry Kill said he remains hopeful that Jones will be eligible to practice with the football team by next spring.

Kill didn’t give specifics, but it appears Jones has been granted partial approval of an initial eligibility waiver by the NCAA. Jones would be eligible to participate in team activities if he posts at least a 2.5 grade-point average for the fall semester.

Jones, who was ranked as the nation’s No. 7 running back by, was right on the bubble to qualify academically for Division I coming out of Minneapolis Washburn. After applying for the initial eligibility waiver, Jones was granted his athletic scholarship, and now he has a chance to prove himself in the classroom.

“I think he’s happy and excited,” Kill said. “First day of school. I saw him [Tuesday] morning. Hopefully he’ll be practicing in the spring. There’s certain things that I won’t mention, how the NCAA works and all that. But [I’m] cautiously optimistic to see how that works out.”

Ekpe out for season

Kill said defensive tackle Scott Ekpe is out for the season because of a knee injury. Ekpe is a junior and can get a medical redshirt, giving him two more years of eligibility.

“That’s a major blow,” Kill said.

Ekpe played in all 13 games in each of the past two seasons, recording 33 tackles, including five tackles for a loss. To fill his place, the Gophers likely will tab true freshman Steven Richardson to start next to senior defensive tackle Cameron Botticelli.

The Gophers also have moved Harold Legania back from the offensive line to bolster their depth at defensive tackle.

Other injury notes

Kill said wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky and defensive end Michael Amaefula will be ready to return from their respective injuries for Saturday’s game against Middle Tennessee State.

Kill didn’t give specifics on the injuries and said he’d need to see how things go this week for defensive end Alex Keith and defensive tackle Yoshoub Timms.

“They’re not lost for the season, and we’ll see how this week progresses with them,” Kill said.