The Minneapolis Police Department is investigating a case involving four Gophers football players, who were suspended before Saturday’s 58-28 win over Indiana State.
Gophers coach Tracy Claeys said he suspended KiAnte Hardin, Ray Buford, Dior Johnson and Tamarion Johnson for a violation of team rules.
“The Minneapolis Police Department is currently investigating a case that mentions the names you provided,” the department said in a statement. “We are working to determine how they are involved in the case at this time. There is no further information that we can release.”
Claeys said he doesn’t know how long the suspensions will last and didn’t offer a specific reason for the punishment.
“They’re suspended because they busted the team rules,” Claeys said. “We’ll deal with it day by day.”
Hardin, a sophomore from Webb City, Mo., started at cornerback and played most of last week’s opener against Oregon State, recording six tackles and two pass breakups.
Buford, a redshirt freshman from Detroit, battled Hardin for the starting cornerback job last month but did not play in the opener. Claeys referred to that as a football decision, saying Hardin and senior cornerback Jalen Myrick had played well.
Dior Johnson, a redshirt freshman from the same high school as Buford (Detroit Southfield), was rated a four-star recruit by Rivals.com but has yet to play for Minnesota. Tamarion Johnson is a true freshman who is expected to redshirt this year.
With Buford and Hardin out, sophomore Antonio Shenault started at cornerback Saturday, and redshirt freshman Zo Craighton also saw playing time. Indiana State passed for 247 yards, including three touchdown receptions by Robert Tonyan.
“I’m not concerned” about the secondary in lieu of the suspensions, Claeys said. “Next guy has got to step up and play. Don’t follow team policy, you get suspended. Period.”
Three’s no crowd
With Shannon Brooks, last year’s leading rusher, expected back from his broken foot injury for the next game, the Gophers have a logjam at tailback.
Rodney Smith and Kobe McCrary alternated series against Indiana State, with each getting 17 carries. Smith rushed for 74 yards, and McCrary racked up 176 yards.
“Those are the things that [McCrary’s] always done at practice, so I’m glad to see that,” Claeys said.
“Now that he’s got a game under his belt, he’ll have a bigger role here this week moving forward.
“It’s a good problem to have what we’re going to have, with the people we’ll have at tailback.”
Even though Brooks and Smith are just sophomores, McCrary said he didn’t hesitate to transfer to Minnesota from Butler (Kan.) Community College.
“I knew Rodney and Shannon were good,” McCrary said. “I just felt like I can bring some depth, all three of us, you know — a three-headed monster.”
Tight end Brandon Lingen returned from shoulder surgery but landed hard on the same left shoulder and left the game after making one reception for 17 yards.
“I’ve been told it doesn’t have anything to do with what they fixed in the surgery,” Claeys said. “But he was sore a little bit. The doctors will look at it, and we’ll get that updated. I’m a little concerned about it.”
Right guard Vincent Calhoun (toe injury) and defensive tackle Andrew Stelter (unspecified injury) left for precautionary reasons. Claeys said both could have returned.
• Former coach Jerry Kill received a roaring ovation when his face was shown on the video board, with the crowd chanting, “Jer-ry! Jer-ry! Jer-ry!” Now an associate AD at Kansas State, Kill was in town promoting his book, “Chasing Dreams: Living My Life One Yard at a Time.” Proceeds go to Kill’s Chasing Dreams Epilepsy Fund. He raised more than $200,000 for the fund at a book-signing event Friday.
• Gophers kicker Emmit Carpenter made all three of his field goal attempts and is now 4-for-4 on the season, with all the kicks going at least 40 yards. His 10 kickoffs against Indiana State included five touchbacks and three that sailed out of bounds.
• The Gophers only had to punt once. Ryan Santoso boomed a 46 yarder to the 15.