Gophers Smith and Barber named to watch lists

Published 4:50 pm Monday, July 16, 2018

University of Minnesota running back Rodney Smith and linebacker Thomas Barber were named to pre-season watch lists. Smith was named to the Maxwell award watch list, while Barber was placed on the Bednarik Award watch list.

The Maxwell Award, named in honor of Robert W. “Tiny” Maxwell, has been given to America’s College Player of the Year since 1937, while the Bednarik Award has been presented to the College Defensive Player of the Year since 1995.

Smith is one of 33 running backs on the Maxwell list and one of six who call the Big Ten Conference home. The Jonesboro, Georgia, native has rushed 626 times (sixth all-time in school history) for 2,805 yards (eighth all-time in school history) in 37 career games. He has scored 21 career rushing touchdowns, which ranks tied for ninth in school history, and his career long rush of 70 yards came at Maryland in 2016. He has 10 career 100-yard rushing games, which ranks eighth in program history, and he rushed for a career high 153 yards against Purdue in 2016.

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Smith is more than a running back. He has already graduated with a degree in Human Development and Youth Studies and also excels in the passing and return games. Smith has 56 career receptions for 419 yards and has returned 22 kicks for 626 yards, including two touchdowns. His career long 100-yard kick return came against Nebraska in 2017 and in that game he had 279 all-purpose yards (10 receiving, 134 rushing and 135 kick return), tied for the seventh most in school history.

Smith has 3,850 all-purpose yards (2,805 rushing, 419 receiving and 626 kick return) on his resume,  eighth in school history. He need 1,260 all-purpose yards this season to break Darrel Thompson’s school record of 5,109.

In his career, Smith has been named All-Big Ten Third Team (2016) and All-Big Ten Honorable Mention (2017). He also received the team’s Bronko Nagurski Award (Team MVP) in 2016 and 2017, and in 2016 he was honored with the team’s Bruce Smith Award (Outstanding Offensive Player) and Bob McNamara Offensive Back of the Year.

Barber is one of 35 linebackers on the Bednarik list and is one of six who play in the Big Ten. Barber emerged as a breakout star last season as a sophomore. The legacy Gopher started all 12 games and finished first on the team with 115 tackles (third in the Big Ten), which included 76 solo stops (first in the Big Ten).

The Plymouth native made 10.5 tackles for loss (second on the team and 18th in the Big Ten), while forcing three fumbles (tied for second in the Big Ten) and recovering two fumbles (tied for second in the Big Ten). He recorded double-digit tackles in seven Big Ten games and also notched one interception en route to being named All-Big Ten Third Team (media) and All-Big Ten Honorable Mention (coaches).