There isn't much more the Gophers football team could ask Mo Ibrahim to do in the ground game after he led the Big Ten in rushing last season.
Ibrahim, though, has been working extra hard on improving his pass catching this summer. So much so that one teammate jokingly hinted at a position switch for the All-America tailback as the Gophers open training camp this week.
"I just want to first start out by saying, 'Shout out, Mo. One of the newest members of the wideouts," senior wide receiver Chris Autman-Bell said at Tuesday's news conference.
Without a primary target like NFL first-round pick Rashod Bateman this year, the Gophers are looking to spread the wealth around in the passing game. That means arguably the nation's best running back could be used even more as a receiver.
Ibrahim, a 5-10, 210-pound senior, ranked second in the nation with 153.7 yards rushing per game in 2020, but he caught only eight passes for 56 yards in seven games.
"Mo's not just a ground and pounder," Autman-Bell said. "Mo is everything. I believe he's going to show that this year coming up. So, he's been working on nothing but his hands this whole offseason. His routes and his break points. So, I think he's going to show you guys he can be more of a receiver this year."
Gophers quarterback Tanner Morgan smiled when asked about Ibrahim as a receiving threat to potentially make the offense more explosive.
"Definitely," Morgan said. "Obviously, he's a special running back, but he's even more than that. He's got great hands, and he can run routes at a high level. He's definitely more unique than a lot of people have seen.He can do a lot of things; he's very talented. He's obviously, I think, the best running back in the country. He can catch — for real. He's got really good hands."
Mafe's Olympic connection
Senior defensive end Boye Mafe proudly watched his close friend and former Hopkins runner Joe Fahnbulleh advance to the 200-meter finals in the Olympics.
Fahnbulleh, the NCAA outdoor 200-meter champion at Florida this year, was competing for Liberia in Tokyo.
"It's an amazing feat," Mafe said. "I couldn't be more proud of him to be in the Olympics."
The 6-4, 265-pound Mafe led the Gophers with 4.5 sacks last year, but he recalled when he not only played football but ran track at Hopkins.
"Joe and I have a close relationship," he said. "He won't admit it to you, but I beat him in a race. … It was when he was a young guy. Joe is like a little brother to me. I'm excited to see him run."
Thoughts with Motzko family
P.J. Fleck opened his news conference Tuesday with a tribute to Gophers men's hockey coach Bob Motzko and his family. Mack Motzko, 20, the oldest son of Bob and Shelley Motzko, died July 25 in a car crash in which he was a passenger.
"I do want to start out by sending our heartfelt thoughts and prayers to Coach Motzko and his entire family for the loss of their son, Mack,'' Fleck said. "No parent should ever experience their child passing away before them. I just want to make sure everybody knows our Gopher family is grieving and is right there with Bob and his entire family. They could use all your prayers and continued support.''