If Mike Rallis has a particularly strong senior season, you shouldn't be surprised. He has his own personal coach.
At least, that's the semi-official role the Gophers middle linebacker has assigned his brother, Nick, a 19-year-old freshman who is spending this season training, practicing, learning -- and giving advice to Mike.
"He's been a tremendous help to me on the sidelines," the 22-year-old safety-turned-linebacker said. "I give him a few things to look at every game, and see if he can pick up some tendencies that they're doing within the game that we hadn't seen on film. He's been a great guy to have on the sidelines."
But on the sidelines he must stay, at least this season. Coach Jerry Kill has made it clear he doesn't plan to alter the redshirt status of any more freshmen, unless forced to by injuries. That means Nick, who missed most of his senior year in high school because of a shoulder injury, is stuck mostly watching games for another year.
"I think it's starting to frustrate him a little bit, when he can't put it together on Saturdays, but he understands it, and he's going to keep working hard," Mike Rallis said.
During practice, Nick plays linebacker on the Gophers scout defense, learning that week's opponent's defense and trying to imitate it, helping prepare the offense. Basically, he's working right alongside his brother.
"He's taking advantage of his redshirt season very well. He's preparing like he's playing, watching film on opponents, getting deep into our game plan," Mike said.
QBs still on the run
With MarQueis Gray out of action by halftime, Gophers quarterbacks ran the ball only 14 times Saturday, the fewest QB rushes of the season. Gray ran 17 times each at UNLV and against New Hampshire, and Max Shortell had three carries in both home games.
So will the QB-keep game be de-emphasized with Gray expected not to play Saturday vs. Syracuse? Don't count on it, Matt Limegrover said.
"Maybe not 20 carries, but our offense is still built on the principle that you need to account for our quarterback," the offensive coordinator said. "We're not going to trash that part of our game. We're just going to be smart about it."
Especially since Shortell is a sneaky good runner.
"Max runs better than you think he does," Kill said. "He's worked hard to get better over the summer. ... He bends better, he moves better than he did a year ago, and that's a credit to our strength program."
Besides, Limegrover said, he's having success this year, too.
"What's funny is, other than MarQueis' 75-yard run [against New Hampshire], on our zone-read play, I think Max has the three longest runs this year," Limegrover said. "So I would love [Syracuse] to think he's not going to be a threat."
Gray limited in practice
After stretching with his teammates, Gray jogged around the practice field Wednesday, gingerly trying to recover from his ankle and knee sprain. But he did not take part in any drills or scrimmages.
"He wasn't real fast, but he did jog and move around," Kill said. "He's making progress. It's day by day. I don't know how long it will be."
But Kill also said that the soreness in Gray's left leg has not subsided, and he is highly unlikely to play Saturday.
"I'm not going to [use] him if he can't run," the coach said. "I'm not going to have him go out there and stand or anything like that."