The good news for the Gophers: Trey Potts, the person, is back in Minnesota recovering from an injury suffered late in the Oct. 2 game at Purdue that caused him to spend six days in two Indiana hospitals.
"He's back here [on campus],'' Gophers coach P.J. Fleck said Monday. "It's unfortunate what happened and really scary what happened. … He's doing way better and will be OK.''
The bad news for the Gophers: Trey Potts, the running back, will miss the remainder of the 2021 season, and Fleck said it's "too early to tell'' if the injury is career-threatening.
Fleck would not go into details about the extent or type of injury, deferring to Potts and his family to speak if they choose.
Potts, the Gophers' leading rusher with 552 yards and six touchdowns on 112 carries, left Minnesota's 20-13 victory over Purdue in West Lafayette, Ind., late in the fourth quarter, appearing to be in no obvious distress. He was observed and treated by the team's medical staff on the sideline before being taken by ambulance to a hospital. He was transferred to Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis and remained there until Friday.
"You win a football game like that and there's this excitement of winning, but then there's real life that you're incredibly concerned about him and his safety and his health and his well-being,'' said Fleck, adding, "I'm really thankful for the medical team that we have.''
While Fleck and the team flew home after the Oct. 2 game, Gophers athletic director Mark Coyle, head football athletic trainer Mike Sypniak and team physician Dr. David Jewison remained in Indiana overnight with Potts. Potts' parents, Jerome and Georgia, traveled from their Williamsport, Pa., home to be with their son in the hospital.
"I talked to Georgia right after. Obviously, she was really upset. Those are the parent phone calls you never want to have — ever,'' said Fleck, who, accompanied by his wife Heather, flew to Indianapolis last Monday to visit Potts.
Potts, a redshirt sophomore, took over as the Gophers' top running back after Mohamed Ibrahim suffered a season-ending Achilles' tendon injury in the opener. In a three-game stretch from Sept. 11-25, Potts led all FBS teams with 440 rushing yards, averaging 29 carries per game. Against Purdue, he rushed 15 times for 78 yards and a touchdown.
Potts' long-term football future isn't known, though Fleck expressed optimism.
"It's too early to tell. I have just been told, 'Don't expect him back for the rest of the year,' '' Fleck said. "I think that's positive for him if football is something that he wants to do with the options that he has, but I think that if [retiring from football] was the only option, that would have been said by now.''
With their top two running backs lost for the season, Fleck and his coaching staff will turn to a quartet to fill the role, starting with Saturday's home game against Nebraska.
True freshman Mar'Keise "Bucky'' Irving is the team's top healthy running back, with 112 yards on 25 carries. Redshirt freshman Ky Thomas has seven carries for 66 yards and a touchdown. Redshirt sophomore Cam Wiley (six carries, 4 yards) and redshirt junior Bryce Williams (five carries, 2 yards) also are in the mix.
When Ibrahim was injured, the Gophers moved Potts into the No. 1 role and used him for an average of 26.3 carries in his four starts. Irving has averaged 8.3 carries, and Fleck expects the Gophers will use a group approach this time.
"At this point it's going to be a little more by committee,'' Fleck said. "When you look at Bucko as a true freshman, he's a very, very talented player. He hasn't really played a ton yet, and he's still learning. I believe in him 100%, and you're going to see a heavy dose of him. You're going to see a heavy dose of Ky Thomas, Cam Wiley and even Bryce [Williams].''
Also in the mix to keep the Gophers run game going: Quarterback Cole Kramer, who has inherited the wildcat QB job. Kramer has rushed 10 times for 54 yards and a touchdown, including eight carries for 32 yards at Purdue.
Fleck said he expected that Potts would visit the team during Tuesday's practice, if not Monday in the indoor complex. The coach also sees a team rallying around Potts.
"To say it hasn't affected young people I would say is not accurate,'' Fleck said. "They have a really good perspective of it. They know he's going to be OK.''