DeLeon Eskridge, Minnesota’s leading rusher last season, has been granted a release from his scholarship and will not return to the Gophers this fall for his senior season.
According to the Star Tribune’s Phil Miller, Eskridge is dealing with a family situation and is planning to transfer to a school closer to his native San Francisco.
Eskridge gained 698 yards and had seven touchdowns in 2010. He led Minnesota in rushing two of the past three years. He recorded 17 touchdowns since his freshman year (2008).
Eskridge shared carries with senior Duane Bennett last season, but was seen as the #2 back by head coach Jerry Kill. Nevertheless, losing the #2 rusher in Kill’s offense is like losing your #1-B rusher. Eskridge is a fast, downhill runner who provided the Gophers with a solid 1-2 punch at running back.
While the departure of Eskridge leaves Minnesota with less depth at the running back position, it could be a blessing in disguise for the Gophers.
Now, I’m not saying it’s a good thing he left, but Lamonte Edwards and Donnell Kirkwood, both redshirt freshman, have a lot of promise. I said in my Dashing Gophers blog that Edwards looks like the next Adrian Peterson. Giving Edwards more carries and experience this year can only help the Gophers given his potential. Kirkwood could be the main beneficiary of Eskridge’s departure. Kirkwood would have been a large factor in the Gopher’s running game last year if it weren’t for a leg injury that ended his season early. Kirkwood is an explosive runner who is a future workhorse. He was granted a medical hardship last year, so he still has four years of eligibility.
Given how Kill likes to use multiple running backs, one or both of these backs will have the opportunity to step up behind Bennett and get the touches Eskridge would have received.
Redshirt freshman Devon Wright could also be a factor this year if he regains his academic eligibility.
The Esridge loss is tough, but Gopher fans will get a good look at a running back combination (Edwards-Kirkwood) that could someday compare to Barber-Maroney.