Ex-Buckeyes center Brian Bobek is growing into his future Gophers role.
So how did Brian Bobek spend his summer in preparation for joining the Gophers football team in two weeks? By breaking NCAA rules.
Well, at least it could sound that way.
"I'd say I'm definitely doing more work with a strength coach than the NCAA would allow," said the former Ohio State center, who transferred to Minnesota and is slated to be able to play in 2013. "It's about all I do."
The catch is, the coach is his father, Jeffrey, a former Iowa offensive lineman, and the workouts are at his suburban Chicago home, not as part of a university program. Totally legal, in other words -- and by Bobek's estimation, entirely effective.
"He's got me doing work on the field for agility. He's got me doing a lot of conditioning out there. He's got me lifting all the time," Bobek said of his bigger-and-better program. "I'm stronger than I've ever been."
Bigger, too, which may come as a shock in Columbus. According to the Columbus Dispatch, new Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer believed that a 270-pound center wasn't big enough for his offense. But Bobek has put on more than 15 pounds this summer, can bench press 480 pounds, and believes he will report to Minnesota for fall semester at 290 pounds, at least.
He'll do so as a walk-on, too, a demonstration of his commitment to Minnesota -- not many Parade All-Americas, as Bobek was at Fremd High School in Palatine, Ill., ever lack a scholarship. But Gophers coach Jerry Kill didn't have any scholarships available when Bobek contacted him in May. Bobek's family will pay tuition and expenses until January, when he becomes a scholarship player again. He'll room with upperclassman linemen, so he can become acquainted with his teammates while spending the fall practicing for next year.
"It says something that they found a way to get me there," Bobek said. "They said they definitely wanted me."
And why not? Recruits with Bobek's credentials -- all-state in Illinois, the Cook County athlete of the year, a champion shot put and discus thrower -- don't choose Minnesota very often. Kill and his staff, at Northern Illinois during Bobek's high school career, knew his accomplishments very well but realized early on they had little chance to lure him with Ohio State coach Jim Tressel after him, too.
Bobek chose the Buckeyes, and doesn't regret it, even though Tressel resigned only four months after signing day. He loved the big-time atmosphere at Ohio Stadium, enjoyed the buildup to the Buckeyes' showdown with Wisconsin, and made plenty of friends. He played twice early last season as a true freshman, and was considered a possible starter this year, until Meyer arrived.
But by the time spring ball ended, it was clear he had slipped on the depth chart. He asked his father to contact a dozen schools on his behalf and see if there was any interest in a transfer. Gophers offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover was very interested.
"I definitely did not hang up the phone when his dad called," Limegrover said. "It's nice when that happens. We're excited to get him on campus."
Limegrover and Kill are the reasons why, Bobek said. West Virginia and another Big Ten school were interested, and he visited the Mountaineers' campus in Morgantown, where coaches emphasized that the center position will be open when he's eligible. Plus, under Big Ten policy, transfers within the conference must forfeit a year of eligibility, so Bobek could play three years at West Virginia, not two.
"It really came down to the coaches. I loved talking to Coach Limegrover and Coach Kill. I felt very welcome there," Bobek said. "Coach Limegrover cares about his players a lot. Honestly, that's the first thing that I look at. They're going to do what they think is best not just for the team but the players as well."
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