Rodrick Williams appeared to solidify himself as the Gophers' No. 1 tailback this spring, but this probably won't be a David Cobb situation, where Williams takes over and gets 24 carries per game.
I think the Gophers will look for a solid 1B to complement Williams as the 1A, and from what I gathered, the 1B is clearly Rodney Smith. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to see Smith emerge as the lead option by midseason.
Berkley Edwards is in the mix, but he's definitely the third option behind Williams and Smith. Jeff Jones would be right in the mix, but the Gophers have fallen in love with him as a receiver. He worked in the slot this spring, and Kill said he'd even like to get Jones some work as an outside receiver, too.
The Gophers also have three incoming freshman running backs this summer -- Shannon Brooks (from Jasper, Ga.), Jonathan Femi-Cole (Vaughan, Ont.) and James Johannesson (Fargo, N.D.). The coaches like all three of them, but if I had to bet, I think Brooks has the best chance to play this fall.
Smith is the guy I keep hearing about from people inside and outside the program. He's 5-11, 202 pounds and has plenty of speed and shiftiness. When you watch him closely, you can just tell he knows what he's doing.
His numbers weren't overwhelming in the spring game -- 12 carries for 41 yards (3.3 average). But he was working with the No. 2 offensive line, and on several carries, there just wasn't anything there. Smith had two runs that stood out, a 17 yarder and an 11 yarder where he made quick moves to get to the second level.
"We knew he was a good player," coach Jerry Kill said Wednesday during the Big Ten West media conference call. "Nobody talked about him too much, but he had a very, very good spring. I thought all our backs did a great job.
"The thing that makes [Smith] really good as a young back is his pass protection, blitz pickup, out of the backfield. Some of those things where you don’t expect it out of a freshman. Usually, you’re begging for them to pass block sometimes, but he did a good job."
Smith was unavailable to the media this spring because he has yet to play in a game. But here are two other stories I've written with background on him, one with thoughts from Matt Limegrover, and one with thoughts from Smith's high school coach in Jonesboro, Ga. Gophers followers might want to study up on Smith because they'll be hearing a lot about him this fall.