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Smith, McCrary ready to run for Gophers against Oregon State

Even with last year's leading rusher, Shannon Brooks, recovering from a broken bone in his foot, the Gophers don't expect their running game to skip a beat Thursday against Oregon State.

If Brooks was option 1A, then Rodney Smith was 1B. A fellow sophomore, Smith had several strong performances last year. He had 16 carries for 88 yards (5.5 avg.) in the season opener against No. 2 TCU. He rushed for 108 yards against Colorado State and averaged 6.2 yards per carry against Michigan.

"I’m definitely prepared for a bigger role," Smith said. "Whatever the team asks of me, I feel like I’m capable of doing."

Smith said he's also confident in the other running backs. He said junior college transfer Kobe McCrary, in particular, needs to be ready, as Smith has been practicing with the punt and kickoff return units.

Brooks suffered his right foot injury three weeks ago. He had surgery to have a screw inserted into the bone and had to keep weight off his foot for two weeks. The original timetable for his return was three to five weeks. He'll be at the 4.5-week mark heading into Game 2, Sept. 10 against Indiana State.

The guess here is the Gophers will give Brooks extra time to heal, with an open date Sept. 17, and have him ready to go for Colorado State on Sept. 24.

For now, coach Tracy Claeys said the offensive game plan hasn't changed one bit because of Brooks' injury.

"Kobe’s done awfully well," Claeys said. "He rushed for a lot of yards [1,190 last year] at a junior college for a good program [Butler Community College]. He’s surprised just because of his pass protection stuff. He picked that up. I was worried about that since he wasn’t here in the spring. So now, I feel good about that. We still have enough fire power to play."

Young Gophers' D will experience early 'trial and error'

The Gophers released a standard depth chart this week, with two cornerbacks and two safeties, but they'll be spending a lot of time in the nickel defense (five DBs), too.

With starters in bold, the depth chart went:

CORNER: Ray Buford/Antonio Shenault

SAFETY: Damarius Travis/Jacob Huff or Antonio Winfield

SAFETY: Adekunle Ayinde/Duke McGhee

CORNER: Jalen Myrick/Kiondre Thomas or Coney Durr

KiAnte Hardin, a projected starting cornerback, had been out of practice for a couple days because of something he needed to do in the training room, defensive coordinator Jay Sawvel said. Nothing too serious, so it sounds like Hardin could play against Oregon State next Thursday.

As for the nickel?

"We'll have to see," Sawvel said. "Antonio Shenault’s worked it, Antoine Winfield’s worked it, Coney Durr’s worked it. We know we can use Damarius [Travis] there; that’s not where we really want to use him. Kunle has worked it, so we’ll just have to see with that a little bit."

Sawvel noted that the Gophers have Myrick and then six cornerbacks who are freshmen or sophomores. He is very high on those young players, even true freshmen Thomas, Durr and Winfield. But it's going to take some patience. 

"It’s going to take us the two games [Oregon State and Indiana State] and then the open date to sort of get some things sorted out probably," Sawvel said. "That’s not the ideal. Man, you just wish you had it down right now, but that’s not unusual. You sort of have to learn that about guys you don’t know as much about. So that’s where there will be a little trial and error here."

TV Listings

Local Schedule

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  • Twins at Cleveland

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  • Chicago White Sox at Twins

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  • Rayo OKC at Minnesota United FC

    7 pm on Ch.29

  • Lincoln at Saints

    7:05 pm on 106.1-FM

  • Canterbury Park live racing

    12:45 pm

  • Chicago White Sox at Twins

    1:10 pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Lincoln at Saints

    5:05 pm on 1220-AM

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    6 pm on FSN, 106.1-FM

  • Lincoln at Saints

    11:05 am on 1220-AM

  • Canterbury Park live racing

    12:45 pm

  • Kansas City at Twins

    1:10 pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

Today's Scoreboard

  • Toronto

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    - F

    4

    0

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    Boston

     

    - F

    4

    9

  • Minnesota

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    - F

    0

    1

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    Detroit

     

    - F

    3

    4

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    - F

    1

    2

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    Milwaukee

     

    - F

    6

    5

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    - F

    7

    8

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    Texas

     

    - F

    3

    6

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    - F

    0

    6

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    - F

    5

    8

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    1

    8

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    - F

    2

    9

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