Without Ibrahim, Gophers Could Turn to Young 4-Star Talent Over Veteran Depth and Security

PHOTO: AARON LAVINSKY – STAR TRIBUNE

The bad news we expected to hear regarding Mohamed Ibrahim’s leg injury from Thursday night was delivered to media members on Monday morning by Minnesota Gophers head coach, PJ Fleck. You don’t have to be a doctor to see that Mo’s injury is likely achilles-related but there are blue checkmark doctors on Twitter who have diagnosed as much and more.

It’s a big blow for the 2021 Gophers and even scarier for Ibrahim’s future.

Next man up?

If there’s one football phrase that’ll continue to ring true no matter how long you beat the football’s dead horse of phrases, it’s “next man up”. That’s the case in Mo’s absence too and Minnesota’s coaching staff has prepped quite the running back room for this worst-case scenario. The depth and talent remaining behind him should leave Minnesota fans feeling optimistic about their run game. I’m more concerned about Ibrahim’s future… but that’s for another blog.

How the depth chart lines up behind Mo isn’t as cut and dry as what coaches have led on. PJ has spent most of his time touting the abilities of the upperclassmen backups, specifically (RS SO) Treyson Potts, (RS SO) Cam Wiley and (RS JR) Bryce Williams.

Those backs have more experience and have easily taken most of the snaps Ibrahim hasn’t, since 2019. But that doesn’t mean they have what it takes to be the star running back this offense is based upon. Minnesota does have that type of talent at their disposal, however. It’s just younger and less experienced.

  • Bryce Williams – RS Junior – 140 CAR | 541 YDS | 6 TD | 3.9 YPC
  • Cam Wiley – RS Sophomore – 43 CAR | 215 YDS | 1 TD | 5.0 YPC
  • Trey Potts – RS Sophomore – 36 CAR | 206 YDS | 2 TD | 5.7 YPC
  • Ky Thomas – RS Freshman – 0 CAR | 0 YDS | 0 TD
  • Mar’Keise Irving – Freshman – 0 CAR | 0 YDS | 0TD

Youth Movement

(RS FR) Ky Thomas is a former Kansas Gatorade Player of the Year (2019) and (FR) Mar’Keise Irving was an Illinois All-State running back in 2020 who came in with an even higher 247Sports composite recruit rating (.8932) than Thomas (.8863).

If you still don’t believe Thomas has the talent to be an elite back in the Big Ten, just watch his high school highlight film. Unless he’s playing against 4th graders (he played at one of the largest high schools in Kansas — Topeka) he’d be abusing competition playing outside the power 5.

Mar’Keise “Bucky” Irving’s Hudl looks like a lot of the same. But Bucky doesn’t have the two years of a University of Minnesota meal plan or a high level division I weight room and it shows when you see them up close. Thomas has built himself into one of the bigger backs in the Gopher RB room. Physically, you can certainly tell that Bucky is a true freshman. He just looks a lot smaller than the others.

What happens next?

I expect Trey Potts, Cam Wiley and Bryce Williams to get the majority of carries this weekend vs Miami (OH) but I’d be surprised if we don’t see Ky Thomas get his own handful too. If that’s the case, we’ll see who eats up more yardage, who looks better doing it and who can take care of the football. Because that part matters to Fleck more than anything.

“The ball is the program” is something you will hear echoed a lot if you hang around the Minnesota Gophers football team. From here, we’ll see if the three upperclassmen running backs can show us “bell-cow” abilities we haven’t seen out of them yet or if an underclassman like Ky Thomas can jump up and steal the job before we get back into Big Ten play in a few weeks.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan