Cousins fight for time at linebacker, running back

David Cobb and Damien Wilson came to Minnesota from the South.

Nate Gotlieb

Off the field, David Cobb and Damien Wilson are cousins and roommates. But on the field they put their personal relationship aside.

“We come out on the field, we don’t know each other,” Cobb said. “But after that, it’s all good.”

Wilson will compete for a starting linebacker position while Cobb looks to earn time at running back. The cousins are “one in a kind,” senior linebacker Aaron Hill said.

“They’re probably one of the funniest people on the team,” Hill said March 28. “They come from the South, got the Southern accent, so they like to have fun.”

Cobb said he and Wilson grew up together in Mississippi and were very close.

Both had successful high school football careers. Cobb rushed for nearly 3,000 yards and 35 touchdowns as a three-year starter at Ellison High School in Texas. Wilson led his team in tackles during his senior season at Amite County High School in Mississippi.

The pair originally went to different colleges. Cobb signed with Minnesota, and Wilson signed with Alcorn State, a Football Championship Subdivision school in Mississippi. Wilson transferred to Jones County Junior College before the 2012 season.

Wilson became a junior college star. He recorded 122 tackles in 2012, the fifth-most in the nation by any junior college player, and committed to Minnesota in December.

Cobb said Wilson has handled the transition well.

The Gophers could use an immediate contribution from Wilson. Since top middle linebacker Mike Rallis graduated, Wilson will compete with freshman Jack Lynn for the starting spot.

“That’ll be a good, healthy battle,” defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys said March 30.

While Wilson competes for a starting spot on defense, his cousin will fight for playing time at running back. Cobb has played in eight games during his two seasons at Minnesota. But the Gophers return Donnell Kirkwood and Rodrick Williams Jr., their top two running backs last season.

“You come to college, and you want to play,” Cobb said. “But at the same time, it kind of humbles you. It lets you know that this is not high school. You have to compete, and you have to come with it every day.”

Offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover offered no guarantees about Cobb’s playing time, but he said Cobb may have the best vision of the Gophers’ running backs. Cobb said he hopes to earn a starting role this season, either at running back or on special teams.

“Coach emphasized being a starter,” Cobb said, “so I’m out here trying to go hard every day.”

Kill cancels Masters trip

Head coach Jerry Kill has canceled his trip to the Masters golf tournament, the Star Tribune reported Tuesday night.

Kill was scheduled to attend the tournament as a guest of athletics booster T. Denny Sanford, the Star Tribune reported Sunday.

Sanford is the namesake of Sanford Health, which is in talks to merge with Fairview Health Services, the system that controls the University of Minnesota Medical Center.

The University placed a moratorium on all donations or charitable gifts that could present a conflict of interest as the potential merger is discussed.

Sanford donated more than $6 million to the University for construction of TCF Bank Stadium.