Minnesota’s Ibrahim quickly returns to form after Achilles tear

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 10 Western Illinois at Minnesota
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MINNEAPOLIS – At first, Mohamed Ibrahim believed his injury in last year’s opener was just a cramp in his calf muscle, a seemingly minor setback the Minnesota star could brush off like a would-be tackler.

By the time Ibrahim reached the locker room that night, while the Gophers were pushing a potent Ohio State team in an eventual 45-31 defeat, he was informed his recovery would require much more than some stretching and hydration.

The torn Achilles tendon in his left leg, vividly revealed for a national television audience in super-slow-motion replay, ended his 2021 season as it was just beginning. His career with the Gophers was widely assumed to be over, too.

There were still several chapters left in this story, as it turned out, for the Baltimore native who was part of coach P.J. Fleck‘s first recruiting class at Minnesota. The way Ibrahim approached the months that followed made quite an impact on his team, perhaps as much as the 262 yards and four touchdowns he has racked up over 44 carries in the first two games.

Going into the game against Colorado on Saturday for the unbeaten Gophers, Ibrahim has 37 career rushing touchdowns – three short of all-time program leader Darrell Thompson.

“Getting better every day as a person before I’m even thinking about being a football player, that’s what I’m most proud of,” said Ibrahim, whose decision to return for a sixth year was matched by quarterback Tanner Morgan, center John Michael Schmitz and wide receiver Chris Autman-Bell.

Rolling around on a scooter to keep the weight off his surgically repaired leg, Ibrahim maintained his captaincy and came out for the opening coin toss as the Gophers endured several more injuries in their backfield but managed to finish strong with a 9-4 record.

“He learned how to coach the running backs, not just be a running back, served and gave to his teammates and never made it about himself,” Fleck said.

Ibrahim dived into Achilles tendon research and was heartened to learn that late NBA great Kobe Bryant once suffered that injury, his favorite basketball player serving as posthumous inspiration. Ibrahim leaned on his mother and his Muslim faith for encouragement and support.

Then there was his friend, teammate and backup Trey Potts, who exactly one month later endured his own devastating injury – the nature of which the Gophers have never disclosed out of respect for his privacy. Potts was hurt badly enough to require a six-day hospital stay in Indiana after the game at Purdue, putting his football future in obvious jeopardy.

“He had a hard decision to make, and when he made it, we were just together the whole time. We were just locked in. It was more than just football,” Ibrahim said. “Anything he ever needed, I always had him.”

The Gophers have not made Potts available for interviews since then, but his decision to follow Ibrahim’s lead and return to the field this fall provided another source of inspiration for this mature team that Fleck has repeatedly praised for its connectedness.

“It’s first and foremost a very important lesson for everybody to learn from those two guys about how to respond from two very adverse situations, how to come back,” Morgan said.

During those “dog days” of preseason practices last month, the way Ibrahim felt physically told him he was all the way back – without restriction or hesitation.

“At first I just wanted to walk again. I was on the scooter, and I just wanted to walk again,” Ibrahim said. “Then I had to run again. It was like little steps, steps, steps, and then you look down and you realize you’re on the top of Mount Everest.”

Texas State hires Incarnate Word coach Kinne to lead Bobcats

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Texas State hired Incarnate Word coach G.J. Kinne on Friday to lead a Sun Belt program that has had only one winning season since moving up to the Bowl Subdivision in 2012.

The 34-year-old former Tulsa quarterback has made a fast rise in coaching since ending his professional career in 2017.

After three years as an offensive analyst at SMU, Arkansas and the Philadelphia Eagles, Kinne became offensive coordinator at Hawaii in 2020. He held the same role for UCF in 2021 before landing the head coaching job at FCS Incarnate Word this season.

Incarnate Word is 10-1 and averaging 53 points and 8.3 yards per play, both FCS highs, heading into its playoff game Saturday against Furman. Kinne will remain with Incarnate Word through their playoff run.

“It’s with great honor that I’m accepting the call to be next head football coach of the Texas State Bobcats,” Kinne said. “We are going to play fast, have relentless energy, and when the going gets tough, have the mental confidence to win tight games in the second half and represent the state of Texas. Eat ‘Em Up!”

Texas State fired Jake Spavital last week after the Bobcats won just 13 games in his four seasons.

Kinne signed a five-year contract, the school said. Terms were not immediately released.

“My goal was to hire someone with demonstrated leadership experience, success as a head coach, established relationships with Texas football coaches, and success with recruiting and developing players,” said Texas State President Kelly Damphousse. “I sought a leader with a plan to capitalize on our location in the heart of the best high school football in the country.”

Florida Atlantic hires Tom Herman as football coach

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BOCA RATON, Fla. – Former Texas and Houston head coach Tom Herman will take over at Florida Atlantic as it heads into its first season in the American Athletic Conference.

The hire comes just days after FAU fired Willie Taggart, who went 15-18 in his three seasons with the Owls. Details of the contract with Herman were not immediately available.

“We are incredibly excited to welcome Tom Herman to Paradise,” FAU Director of Athletics Brian White said Thursday. “Throughout the process and the more we talked with Coach Herman, the more it became apparent to me that he was the right person to lead our football program. Beyond his knowledge of the game, which is obvious by his success over the years, he also truly cares about the young people in his program.”

FAU’s final season in Conference USA ended with a 5-7 record and an overtime loss to Western Kentucky. The Owls will be in the American next season.

Herman returns to college football after spending the 2021 season with the Chicago Bears as an offensive analyst.

Herman was 22-4 at Houston, a mark that helped him land the head coaching job at Texas where he went 32-18 with four straight bowl trips in 2017-2020. He also was an offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Ohio State during the Buckeyes’ 2014 national championship season, as well as stops at Iowa State, Rice and Texas State.

“All the pieces are in place at FAU for us to be successful,” Herman said. “There are already great young men on this team, great facilities, a great location, a great recruiting base and great leadership, all of which are important to building a successful program.”