Williams shines with hopes of a comeback

Running back Rodrick Williams missed half of last season after a foot injury.

Minnesota running back Rodrick Williams Jr. scampers for a 37-yard touchdown run against Western Illinois Sept. 14 at TCF Bank Stadium.

Minnesota running back Rodrick Williams Jr. scampers for a 37-yard touchdown run against Western Illinois Sept. 14 at TCF Bank Stadium.

Dane Mizutani

Rodrick Williams hasn’t taken a meaningful carry in a game in more than six months.

He started last year as part of a two-headed monster in the backfield, but a foot injury in the middle of the season derailed his sophomore campaign.

Williams missed two games with the injury, and by the time he returned, fellow running back David Cobb had taken a strong hold on the starting spot.

It’s been clear throughout the spring that Williams, a Lewisville, Texas, native, is gunning to be the No. 1 running back when the season opens up in August.

“It’s always tough,” he said. “It seems like all we’ve got is good backs. It’s fun because competition makes practice fun … but we all know we’re competing for the same spot.”

Williams shined brightest of all the backs at the Gophers’ spring game Saturday afternoon. He ran with his trademark power and finished with a game-high 52 rushing yards. Not far behind were Berkley Edwards with 46 yards, Donnell Kirkwood with 39 and Cobb with 29.

“I think all our backs played well, and I think a lot of that has to do with the competition,” head coach Jerry Kill said after the game. “That’s why Rodrick stepped it up. I don’t think there’s any question.”

Edwards may have finished second to Williams in rushing yards Saturday, but he was first in electrifying plays. He flashed the speed so many have raved about with a 33-yard scamper for a score down the left sideline.

“That’s nothing new for us,” quarterback Chris Streveler said of Edwards. “He’s definitely a game-breaker. He can take it 80 [yards] at any point.”

That fact alone has served as inspiration for Williams.

“I feel like he’s going to be real good, so I’ve got to work that much harder,” Williams said. “I can’t let the underclassmen show me up.”

Williams admitted that one of the biggest differences compared to last season is that he trusts his foot again.

“When I first got hurt, I was kind of scared to push off of it, but now it’s just stopped hurting me,” he said, adding that not getting carries in last year’s Texas Bowl loss to Syracuse has motivated him throughout the offseason.

His spring game performance shows that drive.

“I guess I had a point to prove, not really playing since the middle of last season,” Williams said. “I want to get back on the field.”