There’s no question Minnesota’s running back room took a hit following the 2019 season. Both Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks have departed with eligibility expiring after last year, leaving the Gophers without their first- and third-most productive backs from an 11-2 campaign.

It puts a lot of pressure on junior back Mohamed Ibrahim, who was the team’s second-leading rusher a season ago and the top ball carrier for the Gophers in 2018. Experience isn’t something the running back is missing, but his role as a leader at the position will be a new task.

Head coach P.J. Fleck says Ibrahim is more than capable of handling a heavy work load while leading the running back room in 2020. He told reporters about Ibrahim’s development in multiple areas on the field, as well has the leadership role he’s taken on.

“Mo is gonna be the leader of that room. And Mo has developed not only in the run game, I think better than he was, but the pass game, as well,” Fleck said. “He is the leader. His energy is infectious. …That’s the leadership that you want of what the culture should look like all the time. And it’s really good to have Mo teaching those young guys of how it should look.”

Over the last two seasons, Ibrahim has racked up 1,764 yards and 16 touchdowns on the ground. The one gap in his game has been as a pass-catcher, totaling just 7 receptions for 39 yards.

His development on the field and in the locker room isn’t just being noticed by Fleck. Ibrahim’s teammates have also been impressed with how the running back has accepted the challenge of taking on a new role.

“I mean, Mo’s a superstar. Every single day, you know what you’re gonna get with No. 24,” quarterback Tanner Morgan said. “He can do remarkable things on the field, but he’s also a phenomenal leader, a phenomenal connector. He does a great job of leading that room, leading the offense, too.”

Last year, Ibrahim was a critical part of Minnesota’s 11-2 season, rushing for 604 yards and 7 touchdowns on 114 carries. But with Smith and Brooks out of the picture, the junior will likely take on a role similar to what he saw his freshman season, when he racked up 1,160 yards and 9 touchdowns on 202 touches.

Replacing two of the top three running backs from last year’s team is no easy task. So far, Ibrahim has been up for the challenge.