Hosack catching on at wide receiver

Brian Stensaas

At first glance, Minnesota wide receiver Aaron Hosack looks more like a seasoned basketball forward than a well-traveled football player.

Hosack, a 6-foot-6, 210-pound California product, first noticed his height stretching above his peers midway through high school. He always had fun with basketball but never played competitively.

“Our team was never really any good so I just played around in the parks and stuff,” he said.

“Plus,” he added, “I can’t shoot.”

Thankfully for the Gophers, he can catch. Hosack has 187 yards receiving through four games on only eight catches. Heading into Saturday’s Big Ten opener at Purdue, he must keep up the solid numbers if the team wants to contend.

Always a fan of football, Hosack finally decided to try out for the Chino High School team his junior year and shined. By the time his senior season rolled around he was an offensive staple, collecting eight touchdowns and averaging 21.75 yards per catch en route to All-Inland Valley and All-San Gabriel Valley honors.

He was offered a roster spot at Utah State out of high school, but that’s when things slowly began to go awry.

Before Hosack could even establish himself as a legitimate Division I player, the Aggies hired Mick Dennehy to replace Dave Arslanian, now the offensive coordinator of the British Columbia Lions CFL team. According to Hosack, Dennehy and the rest of Utah State’s coaching staff told him to get lost.

“I couldn’t believe it when I saw they cut him loose,” Arslanian said. “Minnesota got itself a good one. I knew right away he was going to be something.”

After spending two seasons with Mount San Antonio Junior College, Hosack caught the attention of Gophers recruiting coordinator Greg Hudson. Hudson knew Minnesota was losing talented receiver Ron Johnson after last season and Hosack appeared to be the perfect fit.

He retains junior eligibility this season and will be allowed to play next year, provided he remains on track toward graduating in sports management.

“He’s really smooth with the football,” said Hudson, who also acts as the Gophers’ linebackers coach. “And when I am standing on the sideline watching him go past, the defensive back is usually behind him.”

Hosack began impressing Minnesota coaches right away. His lanky frame and Velcro-like hands were an eye-opener. During one preseason workout in inclement weather, Hosack dropped a pass prompting coach Glen Mason to jokingly ask him if it ever rained in California.

“He has great hands,” Mason said. “He plays the ball well, no question. I’ve been around tall guys only to have the 5-foot-10 guy running with him to come up with the ball. Aaron has a way of being the one coming down with it.”

While he’s proven he can be a D-I player – helping the Gophers to a 4-0 record thanks in part to a 67-yard touchdown reception in the first game of the season – whether or not he’s a Big Ten fit will be decided in the coming weeks.

“I missed a lot of blocking assignments early on, but my play has improved,” Hosack said. “I’m ready for this. Four years at Utah State wouldn’t equal the two years I have here, no way.”

Barber III out

running back Marion Barber III, plagued with a hamstring injury all season, will not play against the Boilermakers.