Gophers football loses top RB Mar’Keise Irving to NCAA transfer portal

Minnesota Golden Gophers running back Mar'Keise Irving (4) dives forward with the ball in the 1st quarter during a college football game between the Minnesota Golden Gophers and the Northwestern Wildcats on October 30, 2021, at Ryan Field in Evanston ((Photo by Daniel Bartel/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images))

The University of Minnesota football team is about three weeks away from its annual Spring Game, and they no longer have one of their top returning running backs for the scrimmage.

Mar’Keise "Bucky" Irving announced on social media Friday afternoon that he’s leaving the Gophers and entering the NCAA transfer portal. Irving practiced with the team this week in a workout that was open to both the public and media.

"I want to thank my coaches, teammates and the University of Minnesota. I have entered the NCAA transfer portal," Irving posted to social media.

Irving played in 12 games as a freshman last season, getting an opportunity after Mo Ibrahim and Trey Potts each went down with season-ending injuries. Irving finished the season with 699 yards rushing and four touchdowns, averaging 5.3 yards per carry. He finished second for the Gophers in rushing last season behind Ky Thomas, who has also left the program and ended up at Kansas.

Irving ran for 129 yards against West Virginia in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl, and had 100-yard games against Maryland and Northwestern.

Ibrahim, Potts and Bryce Williams are all doing individual work as the Gophers go through spring practice, and all three could be ready for the fall season.