The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Sports

June 17, 2014

Vikings hope rookie RB is quick study

EDEN PRAIRIE — Jerick McKinnon was the last of Minnesota's 10 draft picks to sign his rookie contract.

That's about the only race he wouldn't win.

The Vikings selected McKinnon in the third round out of Georgia Southern, using a pick acquired from Seattle in the Percy Harvin trade the previous year. They targeted him for versatility, his vision and, of course, his speed.

"Too good of an athlete to pass up," general manager Rick Spielman said. "Just too explosive of a player."

McKinnon played a variety of places on the field for the Eagles, a perennial FCS power, frequently as an option-style quarterback. He also played cornerback and lined up as a slot receiver. The Vikings targeted McKinnon as a running back, hopeful the 5-foot-9, 210-pound prospect can be a productive alternative to Adrian Peterson.

"Honestly, I think I can do everything," McKinnon said, ambitiously not arrogantly. "But I guess the coaches have a vision of what they want from me, and whatever that role is I'm ready to embrace it and do the best that I can for the team."

When Toby Gerhart, the dependable backup for the last four seasons, left as a free agent, the Vikings needed to find another ball carrier. Peterson is 29, approaching ancient status at his position. Plus, about every NFL offense worth its playbook has a change-of-pace runner who can slither through the line or catch passes on the perimeter.

Putting the ball in the hands of multiple skills players has been a hallmark of offensive coordinator Norv Turner, who turned Darren Sproles into a rushing-receiving threat when he was coach for San Diego.

As the Vikings started minicamp Tuesday, their final series of organized practices before a five-week break prior to training camp, McKinnon was coming along nicely.

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