Gophers coach Jerry Kill said running back Jeff Jones was excited for his first day of class today at the university and that the team hopes Jones is eligible to begin practicing for spring semester.
Kill didn't give specifics, but this likely means that Jones has been granted partial approval of an initial eligibility waiver by the NCAA. Jones can't take part in team activities, including practices, this fall, but would be eligible for spring semester if he posts a 2.5 GPA this fall.
Jones was right on the bubble to qualify for Division I coming out of Minneapolis Washburn high school. 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. You know, I saw him this 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 cautiously optimistic to see how that works out."
Jones could be a big part of the team next fall, with running backs David Cobb and Donnell Kirkwood graduating.
Ekpe likely out for season
Kill said it looks pretty certain that defensive tackle Scott Ekpe is out for the season with a knee injury. Ekpe is a junior and would be able to get a medical redshirt year, giving him two more years of eligibility.
"That's a major blow," Kill said.
Ekpe made his first career start in the season opener against Eastern Illinois, but injured the knee during the first quarter.
Ekpe played in all 13 games 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.
Kill also said the Gophers have moved Harold Legania back to defensive tackle. He had moved to the offensive line late in training camp.
Other injury notes
Kill said wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky will be ready to play Saturday against Middle Tennessee State. Wolitarsky missed last week's game with an injury near his shoulder.
Kill didn't give specifics on the injuries and said he'd need to see how the week goes along 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.
Keith made his first career start against Eastern Illinois and delivered a sack, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries before injuring his left leg. Keith was filling in for starting defensive end Michael Amaefula, who missed the opener with a knee injury but is expected to return for Saturday’s game against Middle Tennessee.