MINNEAPOLIS — Gophers cornerback Briean Boddy-Calhoun will miss the remainder of the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), coach Jerry Kill confirmed Tuesday.
Boddy-Calhoun was injured in Saturday’s win over New Mexico State. He was not originally expected to start at cornerback, but the junior had two strong games before his injury. He intercepted a pass and returned it 89 yards for a touchdown in the season-opening win against UNLV and made two tackles Saturday against the Aggies before injuring his knee.
Boddy-Calhoun is a big loss for Minnesota’s secondary, a unit that lacked experience entering the 2013 season.
“He’s a great kid. It’s hard to see something like that happen, but that’s part of the game, unfortunately,” Kill said. “The positive part of it is we were talking, and he’ll get another year back, or should, so he’s got two more years. But it’s certainly a blow. I’ve said all along, part of winning is being healthy and staying healthy.”
Boddy-Calhoun played in 13 games as a sophomore last year after transferring from Coffeyville Community College. He registered nine tackles and one pass breakup as a backup cornerback. In his absence, Minnesota will need other members of the secondary to step up.
“Briean’s a critical injury because he’s probably playing at the highest level of any defensive back we’ve had, except (safety) Brock Vereen,” Kill said. “But as far as corner, he was playing at a high level.”
Defensive back Marcus Jones can relate to what Boddy-Calhoun is going through. Before switching from wide receiver to cornerback, Jones suffered two ACL injuries. He’s since bounced back from those surgeries and scored special teams touchdowns in each of the Gophers’ first two games.
But it took a lot of hard work for Jones to get back to that point, and he knows what lies ahead for Boddy-Calhoun.
“I talked to him, and he told me he felt pretty bad on the sideline that game,” Jones said. “I just talked to him about how it felt when I got injured at the time and what it would be like. I don’t know exactly what his diagnosis is, but I’ll definitely talk to him some more through the rehab process. I’ve given him some rides already because I know how tough it is to navigate when you’ve got a hurt leg. I’ll definitely try to look out for him as best I can.”
Nelson racks up the carries: Gophers sophomore quarterback Philip Nelson ran for a career-high 83 yards in Minnesota’s season-opening win against UNLV. One game later, he topped that mark.
In the win over New Mexico State, Nelson rushed 15 times for 122 yards and a touchdown. Kill said Tuesday that he’s not concerned about the number of carries Nelson has gotten — or the number of hits he’s taken so far.
“We’re an option team, so that’s part of it,” Kill said. “You’ve got to protect yourself and be smart. We’ll coach him to do that. … You just have to play smart. There will be some games that he may not carry very much. It’s according to how they play the option.”
Through Minnesota’s first two games, Nelson is currently the team’s leading rusher with 205 yards. Part of that is due to the fact that starting running back Donnell Kirkwood was injured in the opener and did not play against New Mexico State.
Still, after the first game of the year, Nelson admitted he ran with the ball more often than he anticipated. The same happened on Saturday and Nelson said it had to do with in-game adjustments to counter what New Mexico State’s defense was giving the Gophers’ offense.
“It’s something that’s always been a part of my offense,” Nelson said of running the ball. “It’s a great way to attack the ground. I think we do a really good job at it as an offense. … It’s always something new that pops up in the games, it seems like.”
Harbison expected to play Saturday: After missing the first two games of the season due to an unspecified violation of team rules, redshirt freshman wide receiver Jamel Harbison will make his 2013 debut Saturday against Western Illinois.
Harbison, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in the Gophers’ first game last year, had an impressive fall camp but ran into off-the-field issues. Kill said Tuesday that Harbison will indeed suit up Saturday to give Minnesota some depth at wide receiver.
“He’s a talented receiver who can really make a difference out there,” Nelson said. “He showed that in the spring game last year. We’re excited to have him back.”
The Gophers also saw true freshman Donovahn Jones make his first catch against New Mexico State, while Logan Hutton also caught two passes. But the addition of Harbison should help bolster a wide receiver corps that has struggled to make a huge impact in the first two games.