Marcus Jones will require season-ending surgery to repair a ligament in his knee, Gophers football coach Jerry Kill said Tuesday, but "I'm cautiously optimistic that he'll be ready to go in the spring."
The freshman slot receiver and kick returner, who collected more than 100 receiving yards for the Gophers before his 18th birthday, was injured near the end of practice last Wednesday. "It's not a complete reconstruction or anything of that nature," Kill said. "It's his ACL, and [the injury is] isolated there. So that's a good sign."
Jones, a native of Rolesville, N.C., also returned a kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown at Purdue. Malcolm Moulton took Jones' place at both positions Saturday.
APR improvement, but ...
Kill hinted a week ago that "we're probably going to get hit" by NCAA sanctions, possibly including a loss of scholarships for the second time in three years, the next time APR (academic progress rate) grades are released next summer. But he was far more optimistic Tuesday, saying, "Right now, we're hanging in there tough. ... We've had major improvement."
The Gophers' latest APR for the 2009-10 school year was 935, narrowly above the NCAA's minimum standard of 925 to avoid sanctions. (The APR measures the success schools have in graduating their players.)
"Right now, we are very close [to being penalized], but I think that we've moved in the right direction," Kill said. "We've got a chance [that] we may not lose anything right now."
• The Gophers returned to practice Tuesday "mentally in much better shape than we were in a week ago," Kill said, because of Saturday's 22-21 victory over Iowa.
"Physically, I worry about us, because we expended a lot on the field, and we're not the biggest group in the world."
• Jordan Wettstein likely will handle placekicking duties again Saturday at Michigan State, Kill said, while Chris Hawthorne's sore right leg heals. Wettstein was named the Big Ten's special teams player of the week for his perfect onside kick Saturday.
• ABC has exercised its right to wait until next Monday to choose which game it will select for its 2:30 p.m. time slot on Nov. 15, so the Gophers will not find until then when its game with Wisconsin will kick off, and whether ESPN, ESPN2 or BTN will televise it.