Saturday, February 04, 2006

Gophers' Russell Fails to Make the Grade

Minnesota fans woke up Saturday morning to a rather disturbing headline. Sophomore tailback Gary Russell is gone because of academic shortcomings and the chances of his return appear to be slim at best. The loss is particularly damaging because Laurence Maroney, who split time with Russell, announced last month that he was giving up his final season of eligibility to make himself available for the NFL draft. The Golden Gophers don't have any proven runners on the roster and the job is up for grabs. It has been a turbulent six weeks for Minnesota. Coach Glen Mason's contract negotiations overshadowed the bowl game against Virginia, then Maroney decided to bolt, as did assistant Kerry Cooks, who defected to Wisconsin. Safety Brandon Owens had shoulder surgery and his career appears over, and freshman quarterback Marcel Jones was charged with third-degree felony assault. To top it off, the Gophers' recruiting class was widely ranked near the bottom of the Big Ten. OK, there is some good news. It has been a relatively mild winter in Minnesota.

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