Big Ten

Big Ten preview: How will Gophers replace David Cobb?

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Big Ten preview: How will Gophers replace David Cobb?

There are plenty of Big Ten teams wondering how they’ll replace a top running back, but perhaps none were as important to their team as David Cobb.

Wisconsin lost Melvin Gordon but has Corey Clement ready to take the baton. Nebraska lost Ameer Abdullah but has a proven quarterback-wideout tandem in Tommy Armstrong and Jordan Westerkamp. Michigan State lost Jeremy Langford but has Connor Cook running what figures to be a dominant passing attack. Indiana lost Tevin Coleman but replace him with a 2,400-yard rusher in UAB transfer Jordan Howard.

Minnesota lost Cobb, and it’s unsure where the offense will come from.

It’s not to say anything bad about the guy who’ll likely be the new starter in Rodrick Williams. And Berkley Edwards had flashes of brilliance early on last season, too, and could be a big part of things in 2015. But look at the numbers, and you’ll see how important Cobb was. He accounted for more than 58 percent of Minnesota’s rushing yards, going for 1,626 of the team’s 2,801-yard total. And he dominated the touches, too, accounting for than more than half of the rushing attempts.

In fact, of the team’s four leading rushers a season ago, Cobb was the only running back in that group. Cobb was a workhorse, as illustrated by the fact that Williams and Edwards combined for just 53 carries and 254 yards despite playing in practically every game (Edwards missed one).

[MORE BIG TEN: Big Ten preview: To reach next level, Gophers need to beat Badgers]

Head coach Jerry Kill said it’s next man up, something that’s much easier to see happening at Wisconsin and Indiana. But it’s the strategy Minnesota is going with, too.

"I think that's our jobs,” Kill said at Big Ten Media Days last month. “I'll give an example, Ohio State. They just lose one, bring another one in. (A reference to the Buckeyes’ quarterback situation from last year.) That's what you have to do if you're going to have a good team. And at running back, Rodrick Williams is a young man that is waiting his turn. And I think he's going to be a tremendous back. He's a big back and had a tremendous spring.

“We've got a redshirt freshman in Ronnie Williams. And then a young man that's put on about 12, 13 pounds I'm very excited about is Berkley Edwards because he's got to get at overspeed, and he's weighing 180. Now he's about 202. Then we recruited well there. So running backs, I don't have any concerns there.”

The Gophers might have guys to step in and carry the ball, but doing it with the same success as Cobb is another question altogether.

And the importance stretches beyond the running game to the offense as a whole because passing has not been a strong suit for Minnesota in recent seasons. Indiana was the only Big Ten team with a worse passing offense last season. If the running game takes a dramatic hit and the passing game can’t pick up the slack, where will the offense come from for the Gophers?

Minnesota will miss Cobb, that’s for sure. Whether or not some of his slack can be picked up remains to be seen.

Northwestern running back Jeremy Larkin diagnosed with cervical stenosis, will retire immediately

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Northwestern running back Jeremy Larkin diagnosed with cervical stenosis, will retire immediately

Tough news out of Evanston this morning: Northwestern announced that running back Jeremy Larkin will retire immediately after being diagnosed with cervical stenosis.

Cervical stenois is the narrowing of the spinal canal in one's neck, according to Mayo Clinic. Larkin's condition is thankfully not life-threatening, though it does prevent him from continuing to participate in the game of football. 

"Football has been a lifelong passion and it has been a process to reconcile the fact I won't be on that field again, given I've played this game since I was five years old," Larkin said.

"I'm extremely appreciative of the Northwestern sports medicine and athletic training staffs for uncovering this condition, and for my coaches and the medical staff for always putting my health first.

"I came to this University to engage at the absolute highest level on the field and in the classroom, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to continue one of those while supporting my teammates from the sideline." 

Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald called the news "heartbreaking."

"This is heartbreaking because I see every day how much Jeremy loves the game, loves his teammates, and loves to compete," Fitzgerald said in a statement. "But this is the absolute best possible outcome for him.

"The discovery of this condition allowed Jeremy and his family to make an informed decision for his long-term health and well-being. For those of us who have known Jeremy Larkin since his high school days, his future is exceptionally bright. I can't wait to see the impact he makes in our world."

Larkin is a sophomore from Cincinnati. He finishes his Northwestern career with 156 carries for 849 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns.

Former Illini champion Kevin Anderson upsets Roger Federer in Wimbledon quarterfinal

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Former Illini champion Kevin Anderson upsets Roger Federer in Wimbledon quarterfinal

Former University of Illinois tennis star Kevin Anderson completed a marathon upset against an all-time great on the highest stage of professional tennis.

Anderson came back from two sets down to beat Roger Federer in Wimbledon’s quarterfinals 2-6, 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 13-11 on Wednesday morning. He will play in the semifinals of the tournament for the first time in his career.

As a native of South Africa, Anderson played three seasons with the Fighting Illini and won the NCAA doubles championship during the 2005-06 season as a sophomore. The 32-year-old was a three-time All-American in singles at Illinois.

Now, as the eighth ranked singles player on the ATP World Tour, Anderson is a force to be reckoned with at the professional level. He made it all the way to the US Open final in 2017.

The former Illini star will look to keep his recent success going when he represents Illinois in the semifinals of Wimbledon this Friday.