Posted by Jerry Hinnen
It's only January. But Year 2 of Jerry Kill's reclamation project at Minnesota has already gotten a big boost.
Gopher star kick returner and starting cornerback Troy Stoudermire was granted an extra year of eligibility by the Big Ten and will return for a second chance at his senior season, Minnesota announced in a statement Friday. A serious arm injury limited Stoudermire to only the first four games of the 2011 season.
Stoudermire's return will give him a serious shot at becoming the NCAA's all-time leader in kickoff return yardage. He already holds the Big Ten mark with 3,102 career yards, putting him a little more than 400 yards behind Houston's Tyron Carrier, who established the new record this past season with 3,517. Stoudermire should also re-establish himself as a key member of the Gopher secondary, having totaled 24 tackles, three pass break-ups, and two interceptions in those four 2011 performances alone.
“This is great news for Troy and for our program,” Kill said in the statement. “I’m really excited for Troy and glad to have him back with us next season.”
“I’m just excited and happy,” Stoudermire said. “I’ve been waiting on this thing for a long time. Now, I’m just looking forward to getting back there for my first workout and getting back with the team.”
A highly-regarded "athlete" prospect out of Dallas, Stoudermire struggled to become a regular down-to-down player under former coach Tim Brewster, eventually shifting from wide receiver to corner midway through the 2010 season. But even as a freshman, Stoudermire confirmed himself as a profilic return man, averaging 25.8 yards per attempt (27th nationally) and finishing in sixth in total kickoff return yardage.
It will take far more than just this one piece of good news to return the Gophers from the depths of back-to-back 3-9 seasons. And even Stoudermire will have to fight to earn the right to serve as the Gophers' primary kick returner; freshman receiver Marcus Jones averaged better than 28 yards on his 13 returns and found the end zone once as well--s00eomthing Stoudermire has, surprisingly, never accomplished.
But for a special teams unit that could always use such a battle-tested return presence and a secondary that ranked 78th in the FBS in yards allowed per passing attempt, there's no doubt that Stoudermire's return is nonetheless a massive step in the right direction.
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