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Continued: Hartman: Gophers have more, better running backs

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Last update: August 9, 2012 - 7:25 AM

A year ago the Gophers football team had only four running backs on scholarship and injuries to two of them, David Cobb and Donnell Kirkwood, limited their performance.

This year it is a different story, with terrific competition among the running backs, and the bulk of them have great speed.

Another good sign for development is that the Gophers have only 10 seniors on their roster and none of them is a running back. And to make the offense of the future look even more competitive, the current first-team offensive line doesn't have a senior, either.

Right now it appears that James Gillum, a junior college transfer from Mississippi Gulf Coast Junior College, is the No. 1 back.

Gillum was a tremendous talent in high school at Pearl River High in Louisiana. He was named to the all-state team as a senior after he rushed for 1,787 yards. As a sophomore, he led the state with 2,213 yards and 24 touchdowns. But Gillum's grades weren't good enough, so he enrolled at Mississippi Gulf Coast, where he was the 12th-leading junior college rusher as a sophomore and eighth as a freshman.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune quoted Gillum before last season as saying, "I have all the confidence in the world that I can play at the highest level in college and in the NFL, too. But the most important thing to me is going somewhere where I have a chance to start right off the bat."

That's something the Gophers could offer Gillum.

His offensive coordinator at Gulf Coast, Pete Bennett, said Gillum had the ability to be an Southeastern Conference running back -- something the Gulf Coast coaching staff would know. They coached Vick Ballard before he transferred to Mississippi State, where he rushed for 2,158 yards and 30 touchdowns in two years. Ballard is now with the Indianapolis Colts.

Others to watch

Head coach Jerry Kill believes another back who could surprise is redshirt sophomore Devon Wright, who has tremendous speed. The Coral Springs, Fla., native has run a time of 10.6 seconds in the 100 meters. A year ago, he carried the ball only one time, in a game against Michigan.

Others who could compete and see some action are Rodrick Williams, a 235-pound freshman tailback from Lewisville, Texas; Cole Banham, a redshirt sophomore transfer from Minnesota State Mankato and freshman K.J. Maye from Mobile, Ala., who can play either receiver or tailback.

Cobb, a sophomore running back from Killeen, Texas, showed good talent last year when he was healthy, but he played briefly in only three games.

Kill added he would like to get into a position where the Gophers can use some two-back alignments.

"When you only have four scholarship tailbacks a year ago, you really can't do that," Kill said. "We had injuries all the time. But I'm hoping to use a couple of those guys at the same time in what we do."

High on Smith

New Vikings defensive coordinator Alan Williams was asked his appraisal of first-round draft choice Harrison Smith, the former Notre Dame safety.

"Right now he is better at everything than I really thought." Williams said. "He is a real tall guy [6-2] and usually tall guys are a little bit leggy and might not be quick-footed, but right now he has excelled at the pass coverage. We put him on tight ends and he has been extremely effective. We will wait to see how he does against the running game."

Jottings

• When Justin Morneau hit his 200th home run Monday night in Cleveland, it made the Twins first baseman the fourth Canadian big-league ballplayer to reach the mark. The others are Larry Walker (383 homers from 1989 to 2005), Matt Stairs (265 from 1992 to 2011) and Jason Bay (208 from 2003 to current). Like Morneau, Walker and Bay are from British Columbia; Stairs is from New Brunswick. Reds slugger Joey Votto, a Toronto native, has 133 career homers.

Pat Neshek is back in the big leagues after Oakland purchased the former Twins reliever from Baltimore and put him on the Athletics' 25-man roster. The Park Center High School product had 11 saves and a 2.66 ERA in 35 games for Class AAA Norfolk before landing with the A's, and in his first three big-league games this year he struck out five with no hits and one walk in 3 1/3 innings. ... Former Twins reliever Matt Guerrier, who hasn't pitched for the Dodgers since April 18 because of elbow trouble, is reportedly set to report to Glendale, Ariz., on Friday for a rehab assignment.

• Former Twins lefthander Jose Mijares left the AL Central when Kansas City let San Francisco claim him Monday. Mijares had good numbers with the Royals, going 2-2 with a 2.56 ERA in 51 games, one of the highest totals for relief appearances in the league.

• Twins minor leaguer Chris Parmelee was named the International League's hitter of the week after batting .517 (15-for-29) with three doubles, five homers, and nine RBI in six games.

• Here's an update on the two prospects the Twins received in the Francisco Liriano trade: Eduardo Escobar hit his first homer as a member of the Twins' system on Sunday and is hitting .220 with three RBI in eight games at Class AAA Rochester. Lefthander Pedro Hernandez made his debut for Rochester on Monday night and got shelled. He allowed six earned runs on 10 hits in two innings in a 9-2 loss.

• A host of Minnesotans are on the roster of 2012 USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp, coached by former South St. Paul and NHL standout Phil Housley and Gophers assistant Grant Potulny. They are Mike Reilly (Chanhassen) and Brady Skjei (Lakeville), both defensemen and Gophers recruits; Gophers winger Travis Boyd (Hopkins); Edina winger Steve Fogarty and Mario Lucia (Plymouth), son of Gophers coach Don Lucia. ... As of Monday night, Mario Lucia had three goals and Mike Reilly had one goal and one assist in three games in the camp.

• When the Timberwolves drafted Brandon Roy in the first round of the 2006 draft and then traded him for Randy Foye, there was speculation that the Wolves were paid $1 million to make the trade. Owner Glen Taylor denies that and claims there was concern about Roy's knees at the time and the trade was made for that reason. Now Roy, after retiring for a year because of knee problems, is with the Wolves again.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. shartman@startribune.com

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Kansas City 20 4th Qtr 0:49
Oakland 24
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San Francisco
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NY Giants
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New Orleans
LA Clippers 110 FINAL
Miami 93
Chicago 41 2nd Qtr 2:45
Sacramento 45
Minnesota 3 FINAL
Philadelphia 2
Tampa Bay 2 FINAL
Toronto 5
St. Louis 1 FINAL
Montreal 4
Nashville 2 FINAL
Ottawa 3
Detroit 4 FINAL
Winnipeg 3
Arizona 1 FINAL
Dallas 3
Washington 3 FINAL
Colorado 2
Chicago 4 3rd Prd
Calgary 3
Anaheim 2 2nd Prd 3:20
Vancouver 3
Carolina 1 2nd Prd
Los Angeles 1
Florida 1 2nd Prd 18:46
San Jose 0
Texas A&M 53 FINAL
Dayton 55
USC 46 FINAL
Akron 66
Coll of Charleston 57 FINAL
Connecticut 65
Drexel 46 FINAL
Miami-Florida 66
New Mexico 65 FINAL
Boston College 69
Penn State 97 FINAL
Charlotte 106
Detroit 62 FINAL
Michigan 71
Eckerd 59 FINAL
UCF 76
VU of Lynchburg 51 FINAL
East Carolina 92
Texas 71 FINAL
Iowa 57
Jacksonville 43 FINAL
NC State 79
Navy 51 FINAL
Providence 88
Grambling St 30 FINAL
Purdue 82
UMass Lowell 57 FINAL
Sacred Heart 54
Keystone 69 FINAL
St Francis-PA 102
Niagara 61 FINAL
Saint Peters 59
Palm Beach Atlantic 85 FINAL
Stetson 96
Texas Southern 58 FINAL
Tennessee 70
MD-Eastern Shore 66 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 106
SUNY-Westbury 49 FINAL
Wagner 83
Bluefield (VA) 57 FINAL
William & Mary 100
Bob Jones Univ 41 FINAL
USC Upstate 107
New Hampshire 63 FINAL
Bryant 72
Fordham 50 FINAL
Maryland 66
Howard 52 FINAL
Radford 61
Champions Bapt 29 FINAL
UT Martin 115
George Mason 65 FINAL
West Virginia 91
South Florida 73 FINAL
UAB 71
UC Davis 63 FINAL
Eastern Ill 61
Fla Atlantic 49 FINAL
Harvard 71
SMU 68 FINAL
Indiana 74
Franklin Pierce 57 FINAL
Minnesota 109
Brescia 56 FINAL
Murray State 89
North Florida 67 FINAL
Northwestern 69
Fisk 60 FINAL
Tennessee St 75
New Orleans 71 FINAL
TCU 86
Miss Valley St 61 FINAL
Tulane 100
Bucknell 65 FINAL
Villanova 72
Northwestern St 89 FINAL
LSU-Alexandria 79
Winthrop 58 FINAL
Savannah State 59
Southern U 38 FINAL
Ole Miss 69
Morgan State 53 FINAL
Northern Iowa 73
Cornell 45 FINAL
South Carolina 69
Southern Miss 67 FINAL
Alabama 81
Loyola Marymount 44 FINAL
Arizona State 68
Lipscomb 62 FINAL
Vanderbilt 72
Texas-Arlington 66 FINAL
Grand Canyon 64
Syracuse 59 FINAL
California 73
Idaho 67 2nd Half 0:02
Northern Ill 77
Fresno State 29 2nd Half 11:52
Northern Ariz 50
Pacific Union 38 2nd Half 11:42
Pacific 59
Denver 47 2nd Half 9:26
St Marys-CA 57
CS-Bakersfield 12 2nd Half
San Diego St 22
Nicholls 12 1st Half 7:41
UCLA 35
Bowling Green 20 FINAL
Toledo 27
Kent State 0 Postponed
Buffalo 0
(12) Kansas State 26 FINAL
West Virginia 20
North Carolina 45 FINAL
(25) Duke 20
Arkansas State 14 3rd Qtr
Texas State 28
Kent State 0 Cancelled
Buffalo 0
Texas-El Paso 11/21/14 7:00 PM
Rice
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Utah State
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Hamilton
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Calgary
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UC-Riverside 100
Norfolk State 65 FINAL
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Washington Adventist 43 FINAL
Morgan State 66
Alabama State 62 FINAL
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Southern U 68 FINAL
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Monmouth 78 FINAL
Long Island 57
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Jacksonville 64
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Incarnate Word 64
Boston U 56 FINAL
Boston College 73
Clemson 41 FINAL
(2) South Carolina 99
(7) Duke 82 FINAL
Old Dominion 66
Belmont 35 FINAL
(12) Louisville 95
Fla Gulf Coast 69 FINAL
Auburn 72
Florida 66 FINAL
St Johns 72
James Madison 69 FINAL
American Univ 65
Philander Smith 62 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 76
Tougaloo 59 FINAL
Grambling 98
Virginia 71 FINAL
Xavier 59
Murray State 66 FINAL
Wright State 74
Providence 54 FINAL
Hartford 57
Holy Cross 53 FINAL
Dartmouth 69
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Northern Ill 50
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Ohio U 60
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Toledo 64
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Michigan 64 FINAL
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TX-Pan American 72
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SIU-Edwardsville 74
Memphis 58 FINAL
Illinois 60
Arkansas 58 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 51
LSU-Alexandria 70 FINAL
McNeese State 79
Vanderbilt 67 FINAL
Wisconsin 58
Utah 56 FINAL
Creighton 64
Weber State 71 FINAL
Air Force 53
(10) Texas 87 FINAL
(6) Stanford 81
Utah Valley U 61 FINAL
Utah State 79
New Mexico St 52 2nd Half 10:37
Sacramento St 66
South Dakota 64 2nd Half 7:43
Washington 80
Santa Clara 30 2nd Half 9:17
UC Santa Barbara 27
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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pmX35-24
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pmX30-7
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. 3 p.m.X24-7
Sep 27 - at Michigan 2:30 pmX30-14
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern 11 amX24-17
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 amX39-38
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 amX28-24
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa 11 amX51-14
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State 11 amX31-24
Nov 22 - at Nebraska 11 am
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin 2:30 pm

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