Kenni Burns walked into a good situation in January when he became the new Gophers running backs coach.
Burns came from Western Michigan with P.J. Fleck and inherited one of Minnesota’s deepest position groups. Rodney Smith (1,158 rushing yards, 16 TDs last year) and Shannon Brooks (650, 5 TDs) both have two years of eligibility remaining.
Kobe McCrary, who rushed for 176 yards in last year's Indiana State win, is still available as a third option heading into his senior year. James Johannesson transferred to North Dakota, but Jonathan Femi-Cole remains on the Gophers roster, and the Gophers have two three-star recruits coming this summer in Dominik London (East Ridge) and Mohamed Ibrahim (Olney, Md.).
After raving about Smith and Brooks' performance in Saturday's scrimmage, Fleck added, "I think that Kenni Burns has done a tremendous job of developing those young guys."
Burns, a former running back at Indiana, was the wide receivers coach at North Dakota State from 2010-2013, winning three national championships. Last year at Western Michigan, he coached two of the Mid-American Conference’s leading rushers, in Jarvion Franklin (1,353 yards) and Jamauri Bogan (923 yards).
Asked about Burns on Saturday, Rodney Smith flashed a wide smile.
"Love him. Great guy,” Smith said. “He's very technical. He teaches everything. He takes his teaching points from NFL guys and tells us if that’s how we’re striving to be, that's how they teach it. I really appreciate it.
“He challenges me all the time. We butt heads, but I love him to death. I'm learning. A lot of people think in this position I'm not still learning, but I'm learning every day. That's the great part about this culture. You learn and you have to change your best every day. Coach Burns definitely teaches that to the whole position group.”