Gophers 2022 Backfield bursting with experience and talent after Trey Potts returns


Photo: Gopher Sports

Running football wasn’t a problem for the Minnesota Gophers in 2021. Even without their top two running backs for most of the season and four of their six in total by the end of Week 8, Minnesota’s backs stacked on rushing yards (195 YPG) and attempts (45.5 APG), finishing 29th and 7th nationally respectively in the two categories.

Trey Potts was the real RB2 behind Mohamed Ibrahim at the start of the season. So when Mo fell in Week 1 against Ohio State, the role of the Bell Cow was given to Trey. And he (pun intended) ran with it. In 5 games in total, Potts ran over 500 yards and 6 touchdowns on 122 attempts (4.9 ypc).

Suddenly a substitute who started the season hoping for alternate reps behind a All the Big Ten ball carriers was well on his way to claiming his own honors. But this dream ended when he suffered a mysterious injury against Purdue who drove him to an Indiana hospital for nearly a week before he was allowed to return to Minnesota.

Trey Potts Return Tour

On Tuesday we had some good news from Trey Potts himself. After months of mental and physical battles, he announced (via his social networks), that he is feeling better and says that he will “see himself” in 2022. Potts will also be on the sidelines for the Guaranteed Rate Bowl in Phoenix, AZ on December 28.

For Trey, this is incredible news. Many of us weren’t sure what his future held for him or if he would ever return to football. Hopefully, Potts’ footballing career has a long way to go. He’s a great boy who works hard and is bursting with talent.

Potts’ return means the Gophers could have the deepest and most tried and tested group of running backs in the entire country. Obviously, it will all start with Mohamed Ibrahim. But Trey proved what he can do last season. Like freshmen Mar’Keise Irving and Ky Thomas, who have both run over 550 meters (4.5 YPC) themselves.

Saints Running Backs, Batman …

Neither Irving’s nor Thomas’ success was unexpected. “Bucky” was one of only four 4-star rookies in the 2021 Minnesota class. He had offers from just about every Big Ten team (including Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska, Michigan and the State of Michigan). Ky Thomas was a 4 Star High School Rookie also AND he won Gatorade Player of the Year in the state of Kansas in 2019.

Together they were meant to be “the future”. But this status quickly had to pass to the “now”. Those closely following recruiting knew that the Minnesota Gophers back room was one of the most serious on the team. No one, however, had anticipated that they would use all that depth in the 2021 season. Now all four will return for 2022.

It wouldn’t be an honest blog without addressing the elephant in the back room. How is PJ Fleck going to keep all that talent in the box in Dinkytown when a starting opportunity is just a transfer portal entry for one of these guys? You can guarantee that Ky Thomas and Mar’Keise Irving have already felt pressure to test the portal by any of the friends, family and / or social networks. It started when Mo announced his return in November.

Transfer the risks of the portal?

When the transfer portal is as easily accessible and available as in 2021, you can never rule it out. And, if the Minnesota Gopher’s backfield is blessed with better health in the coming season, playing time will be much harder to come by. This is before getting into the NONE aspect of everything, which should not be overlooked.

But as mentioned before, Bucky and Ky had a lot more running (another pun, I’m sorry) than they expected last season. All four guys are on the NFL scout radar, even the youngest. As long as they’re patient, they’ll all have the chance to be the workhorse of a Big Ten West team, one of the few conferences that remains stubborn in using recoil weapons as such.

And for every Jack Gibbens, there are 100 transfer portal participants who find the grass isn’t greener on the other side. There is absolutely no guarantee that they will enter the portal and ever find a situation that can showcase their talents like PJ Fleck’s offense will. We just have to hope they realize it too. This walker room appears to be one of the closest to the team. It should help.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan

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