This is not the running back situation Minnesota head coach PJ Fleck had in mind heading into the 2021 season.

After Gophers top running back Mohamed Ibrahim suffered a season-ending injury in the season opener with Ohio State, sophomore Trey Potts stepped in.

Potts led the Gophers in rushing with 552 yards and six touchdowns before leaving the Gophers game with Purdue in West Lafayette with an injury that resulted in a six-day stay at a local hospital.

During a three-game stretch, Potts led all FBS teams with 440 yards rushing, and an average of 29 carries per game. Against the Boilermakers he rushed 15 times for 78 yards and a touchdown.

While at a press conference on Monday, Fleck said Potts will not be returning this season, but he “is going to be OK.”

Fleck went on to add quite a bit more about the situation. Here’s what he had to say, according to Ryan Burns of 247Sports:

“This year we’ve had some guys banged up and they’re really good players. When your best players are injured and get banged up, it provides opportunity for someone else. I think a lot of you have asked me how the emotional part of that. You lose your best player as you lose an All-American. And it’s not very often you get All-Americans that return at the University of Minnesota. But when they return, you have them, and he’s got that emotional leadership and Mo has that. And then Trey took over and Trey was building to be the guy, and already rushed over 500 yards in a few games and that he gets hurt.”

“And now you kind of dive into that “air” in the “pair and a spare and some air” that we’re talking about.”

“But again, it’s not proven yet, so I think everybody’s like well what are you going to do?
Well, that’s why “Bucko” (Mar’Keise Irving) is here, and that’s why Ky Thomas came here. It’s to eventually be “the guy”. We also have Cam Wiley, Bryce Williams, and we have Cole Kramer with the Wildcat package. So you have the ways to do it. Is it your first option going into the season? No. Is it your second option? No, but as you start to keep going through this thing. Again this is not all or nothing in a year. These guys are gaining valuable experience, not only for now but their futures, that is incredibly critical for their development, whether they got it in different times throughout the year, or whether they get it in a starting role, it can only help them.

“There’s another game next week, and it just keeps moving. We’re going to do everything we can to put our players in the best position to be successful. And no matter who’s in the backfield, we’ve got guys to be able to do it. They have an opportunity to step in and step up. Again, it’s really, but I think that there’s a cliche in football like you’re always saying, “next man up”. That’s not always just the case. I think there’s some programs that can do that. There’s other you know when you lose Mohamed Ibrahim, there’s not that many of him. I think he’s the best tailback in the country. I think everybody saw that for the first half of football he played and last year.

“But then you start to see, who is next? And then when he gets injured. It’s an opportunity for the next player. And again, you’re not just going to say that person is going to be just like Mohamed. They’re going to have their own personality. They’re gonna have their own running style. they’re going to learn at their own development and their own pace, and you’ve got to understand that as a coach too.”

The Gophers host Nebraska on Saturday, Oct. 16 with an 11:00 AM kickoff.