Gophers caught in injury cycle, Kill frustrated

As Big Ten play approaches, Minnesota is dealing with a string of hurt football players.

Grant Donald

A series of injuries have challenged the Gophers football team this season, spurring frustration from head coach Jerry Kill as a handful of his players go under the knife this week.

With only one more game between Minnesota and Big Ten play, the team is counting on the injured athletes to heal quickly and having younger players step up to fill the gap in attempt to ensure a strong performance in upcoming games.

“Some days you don’t have any turnovers, no injuries — you just [have] things go your way,” Kill said. “Then there are other challenges, and sometimes the teams that are challenged the most end up being pretty darn good.”

Freshman offensive lineman Jared Weyler, freshman wide receiver Isaiah Gentry and redshirt freshman offensive lineman Alex Mayes all saw their names added to the already-crowded injury report. They are undergoing surgeries this week.

Kill said that he’s frustrated with the number of injuries the team has accumulated and that healing players is not easy.

Redshirt sophomore quarterback Mitch Leidner left the last two games because of injuries. But it seems that Leidner’s most recent injury, which Kill described as a “turf toe,” won’t keep him sidelined Saturday when the Gophers play San Jose State.

“He did not break his toe. That’s all I can say,” Kill said. “My trainers say he is running pretty well. No different than last week.”

Kill said he expected Leidner to practice Tuesday without any type of injury-related restraints.

Backup quarterback Chris Streveler, a redshirt freshman, relieved the injured Leidner against TCU on Saturday and led the Gophers on their only scoring drive. However, Streveler said Leidner is the starter when healthy.

“As the No. 2 [quarterback], you really don’t ever know how much you are going to play,” Streveler said. “I just prepare the same way, like I’m going to play, like I’m going to start. If I don’t play, I will be ready, and I’ll be there to help Mitch.”

But quarterback isn’t the only position where Minnesota is having problems with injuries. Players at running back, defensive and offensive line, wide receiver and linebacker have suffered a variety of injuries since the season has started.

Senior running back David Cobb wasn’t 100 percent last week as he played through an ankle injury. Fellow running backs Donnell Kirkwood and Berkley Edwards both suffered shoulder injuries against TCU. Coaches expect the three to practice this week and be ready for this weekend’s game against San Jose State.

Kill said offensive lineman Zac Epping has suffered an ankle injury.

“He didn’t practice much last week, but he is such a good player [that] we need him,” Kill said. “He played well but then he is still banged.”

Though Epping will play through his injury, Gentry wasn’t so lucky.

A knee injury has forced him to redshirt the season.

Offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover said Gentry was in the discussion for playing time for the rest of the year.

“[Gentry] had been doing some very good things,” Limegrover said. “[The injury] had been affecting him for a while, but he had been fighting through it, and we did like quite a bit what we saw. He just couldn’t get any further with the way his injury was.”