B1G shoes to fill: Minnesota

As part of a new series this week, we're looking into each Big Ten team and how it's overcoming key departures.

Up next: Minnesota


Why: In this run-first offense last season, Cobb accounted for 58 percent of the yards gained on the ground (1,626 of 2,801) and set the single-season school record for rushing. He was incredibly valuable to this team and was easily Minnesota's workhorse. He carried the ball 30-plus times during each contest in a five-game stretch and also set the single-season school record for carries (314). He finished with 13 TDs -- third-most scores in a single season -- and averaged 5.2 yards a carry.

Replacement candidates: Berkley Edwards (5-9, 192, RS-Soph.), Jeff Jones (6-0, 207, RS-Fr.), Rodney Smith (5-11, 202, RS-Fr.), Rodrick Williams (5-11, 229, Sr.)

The skinny: Cobb's production won't be easy to replace, so this could very well turn into a running back by committee -- especially considering Minnesota ran the ball about 70 percent of the time last season. Edwards carried the ball 30 times last season and can be a speedy home run threat for the Gophers, while Williams complements him well at 229 pounds. Jones and Smith did not play last season, but it's much too early to rule either of them out. One of them could turn out to be a nice surprise.


Why: Not only did he record the most tackles (119) for Minnesota since 2011, but he also led the Gophers in tackles for loss (10.5) and sacks (4). He was an All-B1G linebacker, a two-year starter and a team leader. Plus, on top of all that, he received the Carl Eller Award as Minnesota's top defensive player. He was a force down the middle and improved his zone coverage as a senior. Needless to say, he'll be missed.

Replacement candidates: Jonathan Celestin (6-1, 222, Soph.), De'Niro Laster (6-4, 226, RS-Soph.), Cody Poock (6-2, 236, RS-Soph.), Everett Williams (6-1, 235, Soph.)

The skinny: Williams has some experience in the middle -- he started there during the Iowa game last season -- and defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys told The Pioneer Press that Williams "will have a great opportunity to take that spot." If he doesn't, Poock would likely become the favorite. He's coming off a torn ACL from last spring, so he didn't play last season. Replacing Wilson won't be easy, but the Gophers do boast more depth at the position this season.