Center Zach Mottla had surgery to repair a broken bone in his lower right left leg over the weekend, and he is recovering at his parents' home in Edina, Gophers coach Jerry Kill said Tuesday.
Mottla was injured during the fourth quarter of Saturday's 17-3 victory over Illinois in Champaign, and was taken off the field on a cart. He flew home with the team and had successful surgery in Minneapolis. Kill said he hopes the junior from Cretin-Derham Hall will recover in time for spring drills, but it's too early to tell if that's the case.
"Everything I've heard, he'll be ready to go, and if you talked to him, he's day he's going to be ready to go in two months," the coach said. "I think it'll be awhile."
In the interim, the Gophers are short on centers, because starter Jon Christenson suffered a left ankle sprain on Saturday and Kill said he is questionable for this weekend's game in Nebraska. "Sometimes those are slow, but he's a tough kid, so we'll see how that goes," he said.
Left guard Zac Epping finished Saturday's game at the position, a natural fit since he started the season opener at the position. But the Gophers will train another offensive lineman to play the position this week.
"We'll have to find out who's going to be the backup center," Kill said, and the Gophers tried a couple of players during practice. Junior Ed Olson, a left tackle when he's healthy, was snapping the ball at the end of Tuesday's practice, and offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover said the 6-7, 305-pound Olson would be the emergency center on Saturday.
The Gophers should have much more depth next season. In addition to Christenson, Mottla and Epping, Minnesota will add Brian Bobek, a transfer from Ohio State who is sitting out this season, and Isaac Hayes, a freshman from St. Thomas Academy who is redshirting this season.