Gophers' Kirksey sees replacements lining up

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 22, 2011 - 11:50 PM

The senior expects a bright future along the U's defensive line.

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Gophers defensive lineman Brandon Kirksey.

Photo: Kyndell Harkness, Star Tribune

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Brandon Kirksey and Anthony Jacobs have been constants all season on the interior of the Gophers' defensive line, starters in all 11 games and the up-the-middle anchors for a relatively young defense.

Each will play his final collegiate game Saturday, leaving two of the bigger holes to plug in next year's squad.

But the Gophers are better equipped for the seniors' absence than it might appear, Kirksey said Tuesday.

"You can see the potential that we have here," the St. Louis native said. "Some of the mentality that the guys have ... They give Minnesota something to look forward to."

The veteran of 43 Gophers games specified a trio of players he said could step into his run-stopping role and thrive.

"You've got Eric Jacques, he's dealing with an [ankle] injury right now, but he's definitely promising," Kirksey said of the former offensive lineman from Florida. "He's really good."

Then there's Ra'Shede Hageman, the former All-State tight end from Minneapolis Washburn who has finally settled into his new role. The 300-pounder has contributed 11 tackles as a backup this year, and Kirksey, like plenty before him, sees big potential in the sophomore.

"He's showed in spurts what he's capable of, [he] just needs a little more technique," the senior said. "He's only been playing defensive end for what, a year and a half? If they can get him going, he'll be good, and I'm guessing Coach [Jerry] Kill can definitely" do it.

And one more teammate has impressed Kirksey.

"Harold Legania, he hasn't been able to play this year," Kirksey said of the New Orleans native. "But he has a high work ethic. He's shown a lot of potential in practice. ... [With those players], they won't be missing too much in potential next year."

As for the senior leader, he has one goal left, other than a victory in his finale.

"I haven't had a sack in my four years," Kirksey said. "That's what some of the D-line guys are working on -- 'Let's get you one.'"

Kill: I'm in good health

Three days after a minor, nearly imperceptible seizure struck him on the flight home to Minneapolis, Kill vowed that his medical condition "is not going to affect my job, and it hasn't."

Speaking at his weekly news conference, Kill said "I'm in pretty good health. You come out to practice [and see], I can still get after people's tail end pretty good. I'm pretty scrappy, so I think I'll be fine."

Kill was stricken near the end of the Gophers' Sept. 10 home game against New Mexico State, and wrestled with his condition for two weeks while doctors managed his medication to reduce the effects of his seizure disorder.

"My health situation is something that can be controlled, and every once in a while, something might happen. But I'm not going to let that define me," said Kill, who reportedly "blanked out" for only a few seconds on Saturday.

"My situation is going to be with me for the rest of my life, so I deal with it," Kill said. "... I'm not going to cheat the University of Minnesota, and I'm not going to cheat our fans. I'd walk away from it" before allowing it to affect the program, he said.

Raising the bar

Kill said he's obviously not happy with the Gophers' 2-9 record, though he believes the team has made huge strides over the past four weeks. Next year, though?

"I will tell you, we'll be better next year," Kill said. "Our goal is going to be set high."

  • GOPHERS NOTES

    Up next: 2:30 p.m. Saturday vs. Illinois • TCF Bank Stadium • TV: BTN (100.3-FM)

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