Walk-on used as safety net

Rallis may play key role for Gophers

By Kent Youngblood

McClatchy News Services

MINNEAPOLIS — Mike Rallis didn’t have much time to warm up in a very cold Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday.

On the first play of the second half against Wisconsin, Gophers middle linebacker Lee Campbell sprained an ankle chasing down running back P.J. Hill and was replaced by Nate Triplett.


Two plays later, safety Kyle Theret sprained an ankle tackling Hill for a loss. Suddenly, Rallis was in, and in the middle of it. On Rallis’ first play, Hill came through the line alone, only to be tackled by Rallis for the first of eight tackles he made in two quarters of play.

"I saw him coming through the hole, and there wasn’t anybody else there," Rallis said. "I knew I had to bring him down, so I came up and tackled him. It felt good. I’m glad it was the first play, to get in there and get my jersey dirty. I didn’t have to wait a couple of plays to get my head in it."

He might not have to wait so long this week against Iowa.

Campbell and Theret — two of the Gophers’ key run-stoppers — are both listed as day-to-day. Neither was able to practice Tuesday.

"We hope to have ’em both Saturday," Gophers coach Tim Brewster said. "We could have ’em both or not have either one. It’s a matter of how they progress during the week."

That means Rallis will spend the week preparing to start.

This is what Rallis was looking for when he decided where to play college football.

He had options, lots of them.


Some came early as Rallis made his way through his senior season as a linebacker and running back at Edina last fall. Wyoming offered a scholarship, then UNLV. As the recruiting season wore on, several high-profile schools asked him to walk on, including USC, Wisconsin and Miami (Fla.) — the team he grew up loving.

But he decided to stay home. Rallis took Brewster’s offer to walk on at Minnesota.

"I took visits to some schools, and I really liked them, they had a lot to offer," he said. "But to me, it was worth walking on here, to stay home, represent the state of Minnesota. Coach Brewster said I’d have a chance, and I did."

Rallis came to the Gophers as an outside linebacker but was moved to safety during fall practice. He spent most of this season on special teams, though he did see some action in Illinois when the Gophers played Tramaine Brock at corner with Marcus Sherels out because of a shoulder injury.

Playing against Illinois’ spread offense was a wake-up call.

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