Top recruit enrolling in junior college

Academic ineligibility is forcing a Minnesota recruit to delay his Gopher career.

Hoping to improve on a rushing attack that ranked last in the Big Ten in total yards, yards per game and yards per carry, the Gophers thought they had found their answer with four-star recruit Hasan Lipscomb . Instead, for the second time in as many seasons, a top-tier Minnesota recruit will not be donning the maroon and gold in the fall. Last year, quarterback MarQueis Gray was unable to join the Gophers after he received a non-passing ACT score. From Cypress Ridge High School in Houston, Texas, Lipscomb was expected to strengthen the Gophers running game, which was plagued by injuries and inconsistent play in 2008. Because of academic issues, Lipscomb was denied entry into the University and will enroll at Blinn College in Brenham, Texas . Minnesota head coach Tim Brewster declined to comment on specifics regarding LipscombâÄôs academics. âÄúOne thing that we never do is talk about academics publicly, because itâÄôs not fair to the student athlete,âÄù Brewster said. âÄúI really think it would be unfortunate for somebody to ask questions about personal issues and such.âÄù Rivals.com , a website that ranks college recruiting, ranked the 2009 Minnesota recruiting class as the sixth best in the Big Ten and No. 39 in the country , down from 2008 when the Gophers were ranked third in the Big Ten and No. 17 in the country. While Lipscomb was one of just three four-star recruits, the Gophers recruiting rankings shouldnâÄôt drop that far considering the overall strength of BrewsterâÄôs 2009 recruiting class, Rivals.com National Analyst Jeremy Crabtree said. âÄúObviously when you remove a four-star player from the equation it might bump them down the charts a little bit, but one player isnâÄôt an entire class,âÄù Crabtree said. Acknowledging academic ineligibility as a nationwide problem, Crabtree said the most effective way to deal with it is to have other players ready to step in and fill the gaps. âÄúItâÄôs an unfortunate situation, but knowing the way that MinnesotaâÄôs recruited, theyâÄôve always got a couple other options in the bag,âÄù Crabtree said. One of those options may already be on the roster. Junior Duane Bennett was the Gophers leading rusher in 2008 before he suffered a season ending knee injury in the second game of the season. Bennett, a 2007 freshman All-Big Ten player, is healed from the injury that cost him most of last season. âÄúAs far as my health is concerned I feel great,âÄù Bennett said. âÄúI feel like IâÄôm not being held back as far as doing workouts, so IâÄôm trying to get back in tip-top shape.âÄù Bennett expects a battle for the starting position, and he will likely face it from sophomore DeLeon Eskridge. Eskridge filled in for Bennett after his injury and lead the Gophers with 678 yards on 184 carries. Also expected to receive playing time next season are senior Jay Thomas , who had seven carries last season, and sophomore Shady Salamon , whose 181 rushing yards were good for third on the team behind Eskridge and quarterback Adam Weber. The Gophers also announced that Tramaine Brock , a safety who played in all 13 games last season as a junior, also will not return to the team because of academic issues. Despite the loss of a defensive starter and a top recruit, Brewster said he does not consider the losses to affect the Gopher program for the upcoming season. âÄúI certainly donâÄôt think itâÄôll impact our program. I feel very good about where weâÄôre at and the players that weâÄôve got in the program,âÄù Brewster said. âÄúTo be very honest with you, itâÄôs a non-issue.âÄù Brewster did acknowledge, however, that it is hard to prepare for the loss of recruits because of academic ineligibility. âÄúObviously you anticipate all of your players that you sign to be able to gain admittance through the NCAA clearinghouse,âÄù Brewster said. âÄúUnfortunately some guys are not able to do that, and itâÄôs an unfortunate thing from their perspective, for them.âÄù While Bennett said he is ready to compete for the starting tailback job, he acknowledged having Lipscomb on the roster when camp starts on August 10 would have been ideal. The Gophers will welcome Lipscomb whenever he finally does arrive, he said. âÄúHe would have been a great addition to this team; he would have really helped us out in a major way,âÄù Bennett said. âÄúIf heâÄôs still able to come and join the Gopher family, weâÄôll always welcome him with open arms.âÄù