Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks compete in just about everything off the field — video games, weightlifting, even who has the best hairdo.
The competition carries over to the field, too, for the Gophers’ running backs.
Brooks started a majority of the time last year. Smith provided a spark and different pace.
They got motivated watching each other. But now Minnesota’s top two returning rushers might be on the field together a bit this season.
“I’d like to see both of them on the field at the same time,” Gophers coach Tracy Claeys said at Thursday’s fall camp news conference. “I’ve told our guys on offense that, that I’d like to see them both on the field at the same time. They’re just two dynamic players, and it’s more the people have to work on.”
Brooks, a sophomore, led the team with 722 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. Smith, a redshirt sophomore, was the No. 2 back after opening the season as the starter. He rushed for 696 yards and two touchdowns.
They’re competing for carries again, but the Georgia natives realize a two-back formation could be difficult to defend.
“We’re supposed to be installing a little package where Rodney and I are in the backfield at the same time,” Brooks said. “And one of us will go out for a jet sweep, and come in motion. But we haven’t really gone a lot into that. I think that could be a tool that we use different. Teams we play don’t really see that. So it might throw them off balance a bit.”
Claeys and new offensive coordinator Jay Johnson are encouraged with their versatility. Both are capable of being effective pass catchers. Brooks caught 17 passes for 167 yards. Smith caught 16 passes for 124 yards.
“It’ll be exciting, both of us on the field at the same time,” Smith said. “We don’t even know some of the things that they have planned. Heading into camp is definitely an exciting feeling.”
The Gophers were 1-2 against Iowa and 0-3 against Wisconsin in Jalen Myrick’s first three seasons. But the senior cornerback missed the last three regular-season games in 2015 with a punctured lung, including losses to the Hawkeyes and Badgers.
“I hate Iowa,” Myrick said. “I want to beat them every time I see them. I want to beat Wisconsin. I want to beat them at least one time. I didn’t get a chance to play against either one of them last year. I have a big statement to prove in each of those games.”
LB coach Sherels out
Linebackers coach Mike Sherels will miss the first few days of fall camp after having an undisclosed minor surgical procedure, Claeys said.
Sherels, the older brother of Vikings cornerback Marcus Sherels, is in his third season as an assistant. Defense and special teams graduate assistant Adam Hippe will be in charge of the linebackers during Sherels’ absence.
“With him being gone, I think that [we] will just have to help us step up and lead a little bit more in the linebacker room,” junior Cody Poock said. “[Hippe] is just like Coach Sherels, and understands the game.”
Big JC transfer arriving soon
Coffeyville Community College offensive lineman Donnell Greene needs to finish some summer school work before he can join the Gophers. Greene, a 6-7, 345-pound sophomore from Georgia, will be ready to start practice in seven to 10 days, according to Claeys.