Donnell Kirkwood, whose 229 rushing yards in 2011 are the most by any returning Gopher running back, will miss much of spring football practice after re-injuring a hamstring that has given him problems in the past.
"He's such a good kid and he's worked so hard, I really feel bad for him," coach Jerry Kill said of the sophomore from Delray Beach, Fla. "He's had hamstring trouble since he's been here."
He has, though after a redshirt-freshman season in which he managed to play at least a little in every game, and an offseason workout program devoted to keeping his legs intact, the Gophers were optimistic that those problems were in the past. "He had a great practice yesterday," Kill said, at least until the injury occurred just before the first-day session finished. "He looked quick and athletic and confident."
On Friday, though, he was wearing an orange jersey, relegated to just watching his teammates for at least a few weeks.. "I told him to keep his head up," Kill said. "His job is to be the elder statesman and rehab, which he will, and coach up those other guys."
The other guys include fellow sophomore David Cobb, junior college transfer James Gillum and redshirt freshman Devon Wright, whom Kill called "one of the fastest players on our football team."
Kill said he hopes Kirkwood will recover enough to perform individual drills by the end of spring practice, which wraps up with the spring game on April 21, but he should be ready by fall camp regardless. And he will be removed from kickoff and kick coverage teams in order to limit long runs. "We're going to have to be cautious, because he's a big, strong, thick-legged kid," Kill said.
The Gophers will conduct their third spring practice Saturday morning at 10:15 on the Gibson-Nagurski practice field. All spring practices are open to the public.