Gophers have another standout on ground with freshman Brooks

Gophers have another standout on ground with freshman Brooks

Published Oct. 13, 2015 6:51 p.m. ET

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Shannon Brooks has become the latest running back to stand out at Minnesota.

He stiff-armed his way into the spotlight last week.

With 176 yards on 17 carries at Purdue, a total padded by his six-tackle-breaking 71-yard touchdown run, Brooks bulled his way through the Boilermakers to jump-start a stagnant offense and lead the Gophers to victory. The freshman from Jasper, Georgia, didn't touch the ball in his first three games. But he has 291 yards on 37 carries, an average of 7.9 yards per attempt, since then.

''When he stiff-arms guys and they go flying, it's unreal,'' quarterback Mitch Leidner said, laughing. ''Yeah, he's very powerful.''


Listed at 6 feet, 205 pounds, Brooks was largely ignored by the major colleges during his career at Pickens High School in the mountains about 60 miles north of Atlanta. Charlotte, which has had a football program for a mere three seasons, was the only other FBS team in pursuit that Brooks considered.

''From an SEC standpoint, I just don't know if he passed the look test,'' offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover said. ''I think probably coaches saw him on film, saw he was a good player, went by and saw him, saw that he wasn't 6-2, that he wasn't 240, and they moved on.''

Gophers wide receivers coach Brian Anderson, whose vital recruiting territory includes the Atlanta metro area and rural Georgia, was sold.

''You've got to trust me,'' Anderson told the coaching staff after his visit. ''This kid's special.''

Brooks wasn't even the top freshman on the depth chart entering fall camp, with fellow Georgian Rodney Smith ahead of him. Senior Rodrick Williams and sophomore Berkley Edwards were the first two running backs in line, leaving Brooks a fourth-stringer at best and on track for a redshirt year. He's been too good to keep off the field, though.

''You've just got to keep practicing hard and learning all the plays as fast as you can as a freshman and just wait for your opportunity,'' Brooks said Tuesday. ''When you get it, take full advantage of it.''

Brooks became the eighth freshman in the Big Ten to pass the 100-yard mark already this season. He shared the conference's freshman of the week award with Michigan safety Jabrill Peppers.

''He had a chance to play if he was intelligent and smart, and he's very mature,'' coach Jerry Kill said. ''Very smart. Him and Rodney got instincts, football instincts, beyond most people I've coached at that position at this early of an age.''

With Brooks and Smith, the Gophers have the fifth and sixth running backs to get at least one 100-yard game since Kill and his staff took over in 2011. Brooks, with his punishing style, has the potential to post plenty more.

''I'm a physical runner, definitely,'' he said. ''When I have the opportunity to make somebody miss, I try to take those opportunities, but usually when I'm running I'm physical and I'm looking to run over somebody.''


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