Barber still trying to return from pulled hamstring

by Brian Hall

In most cases, the decision on hobbled tailback Marion Barber III would be clear for Minnesota’s football team.

The need or desire to redshirt the sophomore would be cut and dry.

But, despite totaling only 19 carries on the season and his teammates posting back-to-back 300 yard rushing efforts, Barber is not ready to give up the fight in his quest to contribute to Minnesota’s success this season.

According to coach Glen Mason, Barber doesn’t want to redshirt this season. He wants to get back on the field and help the now bowl-eligible Gophers (6-1, 2-1 Big Ten).

“He has a say in this, too,” Mason said. “It’s his career. He’s indicated to me that he doesn’t want to be redshirted, he wants to play.”

Barber pulled his hamstring during two-a-day practices in August. He has played in only two games this season while sitting out the last three contests. Barber has not practiced in more than a week.

He has been replaced in the lineup by fellow sophomore Terry Jackson II and junior Thomas Tapeh. The two have taken the bulk of the carries, helping Minnesota rack up 302 yards on the ground against Illinois and 418 yards against Northwestern last Thursday – its largest output in four years.

Barber entered the season as the No. 1 option in the running game, but his absence has led to the consideration of a medical redshirt, which would give the sophomore another year of eligibility.

NCAA regulations state that to qualify for a medical redshirt, the athlete cannot participate in 20 percent of his team’s plays or play in the second half of the season, meaning Barber can not play again and still earn the redshirt.

Mason knows it’s not a simple answer and that Barber’s feelings must be considered.

“I’m not going to throw him out there until he’s exhibited he can play,” Mason said. “He has to go through a week of practice; he has to go through everything, where he’s showed that his leg is up to being tested in a game.

“Until he does that, I’m not going to play him.”

The decision on Barber comes as Minnesota heads into the tough portion of its schedule.

The Gophers travel to East Lansing Saturday to take on Michigan State (3-3, 1-1). Minnesota has lost seven consecutive Big Ten road games.

The Gophers follow that game with a bye week, a road matchup with No. 4 Ohio State before hosting No. 11 Michigan and No. 15 Iowa at the Metrodome.

Minnesota wraps up its season on the road against Wisconsin.

Big Ten performers

MJackson was named co-offensive player of the week after running for a career-best 239 yards. He carried the ball 37 times and scored two touchdowns. Jackson shared the honor with Indiana’s Gibran Hamdan, who racked up 310 passing yards and four touchdowns.

Meanwhile, Jermaine Mays was named Big Ten special team’s player of the week.

Mays blocked and recovered a punt for a touchdown for the second consecutive week. He also has a punt block in three consecutive contests and four in his career.

Utecht also hurting

tight end Ben Utecht has been playing with two stress fractures in his left foot. Utecht, who has been wearing a protective boot, played the past two weeks against Illinois and Northwestern, but he has been unable to participate in the team’s practices.

Brian Hall covers football and welcomes comments at [email protected]