College football: Gophers’ Cobb on pace for a historic season
By Marcus R. FullerSt. Paul Pioneer Press MINNEAPOLIS -- The first person David Cobb met on his University of Minnesota recruiting visit three years ago was former Gophers running back Darrell Thompson. At the time, Cobb didn't know he was talkin...
By Marcus R. Fuller
St. Paul Pioneer Press
MINNEAPOLIS - The first person David Cobb met on his University of Minnesota recruiting visit three years ago was former Gophers running back Darrell Thompson.
At the time, Cobb didn’t know he was talking to the school’s all-time leading rusher.
“When I met him, I was 18 years old,” the Gophers’ senior tailback said. “My dad had to later tell me at the hotel, ‘Hey, that was Darrell Thompson.’ When I found out who he was and what he did for four years here, I thought to even be in the same category maybe one day would be so electrifying and exciting.”
When it comes to career numbers, Cobb won’t be able to catch Thompson - he hasn’t played enough games.
But the Texas native still has a chance to place himself among the top running backs in program history - and set himself up for an NFL future along the way.
Cobb’s 233-yard total offensive effort in Saturday’s 30-14 win at Michigan was arguably the most memorable performance by a tailback under coach Jerry Kill at Minnesota.
“I definitely think that was one of the better games I’ve ever played even in high school,” Cobb said. “I think it was just an all-around game, from the receiving end, pass protection and running the ball.”
Thompson was impressed, too - so much that he says it now puts Cobb in the conversation when talking about the top backs in team history.
“He could potentially crack it,” Thompson said. “I think he has what it takes to play at the next level, quite honestly. I started to think that at the end of last year.”
Cobb didn’t start until the seventh game last season. Since then, the 5-foot-11, 220-pounder has rushed for 100 yards or more in eight of 12 games. That includes two 200-yard plus performances this year for the Gophers (4-1), who are on a bye week before playing host Oct. 11 to Northwestern.
Laurence Maroney’s single-season school rushing record of 1,464 in 2005 is attainable for Cobb, who has 722 yards this year, ranking sixth in nation. His 144-yard per game average puts him on pace for more than 1,800 rushing yards, but Cobb tries not to look too far ahead.
“It’s a good thing in the back of my head,” Cobb said Wednesday. “I definitely think if we can get on a roll, and if I’m having good games and having success, that means our offense is doing well. If me having big games helps us win, then I’m all for it.”
The Mount Rushmore of tailbacks at Minnesota includes Thompson, Maroney and Marion Barber III. But only Thompson (1986) and Maroney (2005) beat Michigan. Cobb is now part of that group, too.
Thompson and Maroney were drafted in the first round, though.
That might be far-fetched for a late bloomer like Cobb. But NFL draft sites have him listed as a potential fifth- to sixth-round pick and one of the top 10 running back prospects in college football.
It’s possible he will be the seventh Minnesota back to get drafted in the past 25 years.
Big Ten Network analyst Howard Griffith, who played running back for Illinois and in the NFL, said Cobb’s vision and improvement in pass protection will help his chances of making it in the pros.
Cobb also improved his speed, and he plays with a lower pad level than he did a year ago.
“You don’t have to be a 4.4 guy to be a good back; if you have vision and balance, that’s going to be a big difference,” Griffith said. “Some guys when they’re about to absorb contact, they get tight and they bend over, but their legs stop on contact. It’s hard to get guys that can run as low, keep their eyes up and still be able to see what’s going on and be able to take contact still move forward. Clearly, he’s worked at it.”
Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah and Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon are getting more national attention, but Cobb is still producing rushing numbers that haven’t been seen at Minnesota in a long time.
“My dad taught me a long time ago if you got a good horse, ride him,” Kill said. “Why take him out if he’s doing what he’s doing?”
Cobb leads all Football Bowl Subdivision backs in carries (124), but he said he isn’t wearing down.
“I haven’t played that much,” he joked about being on the bench his first two seasons. “So I’m kind of fresh still.”
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