The school on Monday confirmed Smith's season-ending injury. Smith injured his right knee on the third play against Fresno State when he gained 11 yards on a reception. He remained on the sideline for the rest of the game.
"I am devastated for Rodney, but I know he will keep his oar in the water and continue to move forward and attack his rehabilitation process," coach P.J. Fleck said in a statement. "He is a leader on this team and I look forward to him working with our young players as we continue to grow this season."
Fleck added that the school will apply for a sixth year of eligibility for Smith, saying, "We believe Rodney meets all the requirements for the wavier and fully expect that it will be granted."
Smith started 30 games for Minnesota the past three seasons and has 651 career carries for 2,959 yards and 21 touchdowns. He had 153 yards on 24 carries in Minnesota's season-opening win over New Mexico State. Smith, who also handled kickoff returns, earned third-team All-Big Ten honors in 2016 and honorable mention honors in 2017.
Minnesota likely will be without Shannon Brooks, Smith's primary backup the past few years, for the season because of a leg injury suffered during winter workouts. Freshman Bryce Williams took over as the primary ball carrier after Smith's injury against Fresno State, rushing for 87 yards on 25 carries.