CHICAGO – Gophers football coach Jerry Kill said Tuesday that running back recruit Jeff Jones is prepared to appeal for an initial eligibility waiver if the NCAA doesn’t clear him.
Kill said Jones still is finishing his summer school coursework. Once he’s done, the Gophers will submit his grades and scores to the NCAA clearinghouse.
“Even with that decision, you can appeal that decision with a letter,” Kill said. “That letter talks about all the things that Jeff has gone through in his life. And then they’ll make an ultimate decision there, and then we’ll see what happens.”
Jones, who was ranked as the nation’s No. 7 running back by Rivals.com, is right on the bubble to qualify academically for Division I. The NCAA uses a sliding scale using test scores and grades. Jones had a solid ACT score, but his grades weren’t high enough coming out of Minneapolis Washburn.
The NCAA has a stipulation called an initial eligibility waiver for athletes who can show mitigating factors affected their grades.
“I know the NCAA inside-out because I’ve been through it before,” Kill said. “When you read his letter … usually they grant [eligibility]. Either he’ll be a partial or a full qualifier.”
Even if the NCAA clears Jones to play, Jones likely would redshirt this fall. The Gophers already have strong running back depth behind senior David Cobb, who rushed for 1,202 yards last season.
“[Jones] understands where he’s at,” Kill said. “We need him [in 2015] more than anything. Concentrate on school and get him here this year.”
Kill said incoming freshmen tight ends Gaelin Elmore and Jerry Gibson are both candidates to play immediately at H-back. Mike Henry played there last year at 5-11, 230 pounds. Elmore is 6-6, 260, and Gibson is 6-3, 230. They’ll probably start out at tight end — Gibson actually might line up at wide receiver — but the Gophers will look for several ways to get them on the field.
Sophomore quarterback Mitch Leidner said Melvin Holland is the furthest advanced of the incoming freshmen receivers, and Kill said another true freshman, Steven Richardson, is a candidate for playing time on the defensive line.
With practice beginning Friday, here is a health update on several players:
• Tight end Maxx Williams (knee) is back to full speed.
• Running back Donnell Kirkwood had surgery earlier this summer for an unspecified injury.
“He hasn’t been the same, but he feels good now,” Kill said.
• Defensive back Briean Boddy-Calhoun is fully recovered from his torn knee ligament.
• Defensive back Derrick Wells (shoulder surgery) “may be as healthy as he’s been,” Kill said.
• Wide receiver Conner Krizancic has a hamstring injury, and his status is uncertain.
• Offensive lineman Jon Christenson (broken leg) has made significant progress but is another uncertainty heading into Friday.
• Linebacker Cody Poock had surgery in March to repair a torn ACL, but Kill said the coaches could decide Thursday to clear him for practice.
“Is he going to be guaranteed to be ready to be able to play by the Big Ten schedule? I don’t know,” Kill said. “I know that’s his goal. But if we get into that thing, and he’s not 100 percent, we will not play him, because he can get another year [of eligibility].”