Redmon and Tapeh: a tale of two tailbacks

Sarah Mitchell

Tellis Redmon was named the Big Ten’s co-offensive player of the week Monday, sharing the honor with Northwestern running back Damien Anderson.
And he still might not start Saturday.
Gophers coach Glen Mason said the ultimate decision will be made based on practice this week.
This leaves the spot up for grabs between Redmon and redshirt freshman Thomas Tapeh, who, by the way, earned Big Ten offensive player of the week honors after Minnesota’s defeat of Baylor
“Tell me how they’re going to do this week and I’ll answer your question,” Gophers coach Glen Mason said. “I don’t know.”
“You would think Tellis is going to start, but I don’t know what’s going to happen this week,” Gophers coach Glen Mason said.
Against Illinois on Saturday, Redmon racked up 314 all-purpose yards — the most in the Big Ten this season and the second best single-game, all-purpose performance in Minnesota history. The sophomore rushed for 183 yards and two touchdowns and made three receptions for 116 yards.
Still, Redmon did not earn the starting position, though who begins the game in the backfield might mean absolutely nothing.
Gophers running backs coach Vic Adamle said Redmon or Tapeh could get the first nod against Penn State, depending on who is better suited for the first play called.
“You don’t actually know who’s going to step on the field for the first play,” Adamle said.
“That technically makes them the starter, but as far as the position is concerned they’re both starters. It depends on what play we run.”
At six-foot-one and 218 pounds, Tapeh looks like a walking muscle.
Averaging 5 yards per carry in the four games he has played this season, Tapeh is more of a power back.
Redmon, who embarrassed the Illini secondary on Saturday, has been more fluid catching the ball than Tapeh.
Despite what seem to be obvious differences, Mason said Redmon and Tapeh are similar.
“Because of his size, Thomas is more powerful, but he also has good moves,” Mason said. “The problem is he hasn’t played enough. He hasn’t practiced enough. But he’s not just a power running back, he has moves.”
Tapeh has not been at full-force this season due to two injuries. After injuring his left foot during spring drills, Tapeh sat out the team’s season-opener against Louisiana-Monroe.
At Purdue two weekends ago Tapeh sprained his other foot — the right one — raising questions about his durability.
Adamle said Tapeh is not 100 percent, yet.
“He may not be 100 percent all year,” Adamle said. “Who knows? He’s got to play, though.”
And so the Gophers find themselves not in a running back controversy, but rather a favorable situation. Minnesota has both Redmon and Tapeh, two running backs who each give the team a good shot to win.
So, who’s No. 1? Wait and see.
“The more guys you have at the position that can play productively for you the better it is, but at the same time every good back is going to get better the more they handle the ball,” Adamle said.
“So, is it going to be a case where we’re going to split the load down the middle? I don’t think so.”
And so the starting running back for Saturday and games to come will be determined during practice.
While it’s hard to imagine Gophers center Ben Hamilton or defensive end Karon Riley losing their starting jobs even if they both practiced in a tutu, Mason said nothing is guaranteed.
“No one has earned a position yet. It changes,” Mason said. “I put a high premium on how a guy’s doing in practice. If a guy’s making a lot of mistakes in practice, I’m not going to start him.”

Sarah Mitchell covers football and welcomes comments at [email protected]