Gophers’ football set to replace running back Trey Potts by committee

With starting running back Trey Potts likely out for the season, the Gophers will need more than one player to fill his void.

Redshirts+sophomore+Trey+Potts+scores+a+touchdown+against+the+University+of+Miami-Ohio+on+Staurday%2C+Sept.+11%2C+2021%2C+at+Huntington+Bank+Staduim+in+Minneapolis%2C+Minn.

Brad Rempel - Gopher Athletics

Redshirts sophomore Trey Potts scores a touchdown against the University of Miami-Ohio on Staurday, Sept. 11, 2021, at Huntington Bank Staduim in Minneapolis, Minn.

by Tony Liebert

Gophers head coach P.J. Fleck addressed the media Monday, saying that he does not expect redshirt-sophomore running back Trey Potts to return to the lineup this season.

“Do I expect him to play the rest of the year? No. And I’m not going to get into the extent of his injury, just like our other players, that’s up for him and his family to be able to talk about,” Fleck said.

Unfortunately for the Gophers, they are familiar with replacing their starting running back. They were tasked with the same issue earlier this year after redshirt senior Mohamed Ibrahim underwent season-ending surgery after week one. Trey Potts had done a terrific job replacing Ibrahim. His 552 rushing yards and six touchdowns on the season, ranked him best on the team.

“It is what it is. Unfortunately, this year we’ve had some guys banged up and they’re really good players,” Fleck said. “Mo [Ibrahim] “had that emotional leadership and Trey [Potts] took over and was building that, to be the guy. Now you kinda dive into that air we’re talking about.”

The Gophers “air” will be an inexperienced group of runners. A quartet of freshman Bucky Irving, redshirt freshman Ky Thomas, redshirt junior Bryce Williams and redshirt sophomore Cam Wiley will be the group that replaces Potts’ production.

“What are you gonna do now? That’s why Bucky [Irving] is here and that’s why Ky Thomas came here, to eventually be the guy — Cam Wiley, Bryce Williams, we have Cole Kramer with the wildcat package,” Fleck said.

Williams leads the healthy running backs with 144 carries and 541 total rushing yards in his career. Wiley is second with 46 carries and 215 career yards.

Minnesota has leaned on its youth at the position this season. In 2021, Irving leads the healthy group with 25 carries and 112 rushing yards, while Thomas is second with seven carries this season for 66 yards and one touchdown.

Gophers offensive coordinator Mike Sanford Jr. has added another wrinkle into the Gophers’ playbook in recent weeks. Redshirt-sophomore Cole Kramer has entered the game as a wildcat quarterback in special situations, which has resulted in 10 carries for 54 yards and a touchdown in the last two games combined, a role that could expand even further in the coming weeks.

“This is not all or nothing in a year,” Fleck said. “These guys are gaining valuable experience not only for now, but for their futures that is incredibly critical for their development, whether they got it in different times of the year or they get it in a starting role, in my opinion it can only help them.”

Fleck-led teams have often seen a running back dominate the carries. W, and with Potts out, many would expect Irving to take on much of the rushing load. With so much youth and inexperience at the position, the Gophers might go with a different approach.

“Right now at this point, it’s going to be a little more by committee. You look at Bucky as a true-freshman, he’s a very very talented player — hasn’t really played a ton yet and he’s still learning,” Fleck said. “I believe in him 100% and you’re going to see a heavy dose of him, probably see a heavy dose of him, probably see a heavy dose of Ky Thomas and Cam Wiley and even Bryce.”

The Gophers have been one of the more run-heavy offenses in the country this season, ranking No. 33 in total carries as a team this season. With their top two running backs now out for the season, there is no telling how this will change the teams’ their offensive identity for the remainder of the season. It will, however,, but it will take more than one guy to replace what Potts meant to this team.

“When you’re talking about how you go win football games, you better know as a head coach, as a staff and as a team how we’re going to continue to go do that even when your best players are out,” Fleck said.