What You Need To Know About The Minnesota Defense
– The Gopher defense wasn’t great, but it was good enough. No one was asking for the Minnesota D to be Alabama’s, but it managed to do an okay job against the run and kept games alive – the offense didn’t help. This year, there’s hope for a far stronger defense to help carry even more of the weight.
The back seven has the potential to be terrific, with the linebacking combination of Thomas Barber and Kamal Martin about to rise up and be among the Big Ten’s best. Jonathan Celestin is gone after putting together a solid career, but Blake Cashman is about to be a stat-sheet filler on the outside.
– The expected healthy return of safety Antoine Winfield will be a big, big help. The secondary wasn’t awful, but it failed to come up with enough big plays, with no interceptions over the final four games and just eight on the season. Jacob Huff and Winfield combine for a whale of a 1-2 safety punch, but other options have to emerge in a big hurry – the depth is lacking.
Florida transfer Chris Williamson will boost up an already decent corner situation, with Antonio Shenault returning on one side, and with a few nice young options ready to rotate in on the other.
– The defensive tackle situation is the biggest question mark after losing Steven Richardson and Merrick Jackson – the Gophers are going to need another year or so to build up the position. There’s just enough of a pass rush coming from the other spots to get by – helped by the emergence hybrid outside linebacker/end Carter Coughlin – but the run D has to hold up in the interior with a good rotation.
Biggest Key To The Minnesota Defense
Don’t get pounded on. This isn’t the biggest of defensive front sevens, and again, the tackles are going to be a massive early concern until the right rotation is found. With an offense that’s not going to put up points in bunches, that front wall has to avoid giving up long drives and lots of rushing yards – Minnesota has to control the clock.
The Gophers allowed 200 rushing yards or more in five games last season – and went 0-5. As a program, Minnesota is 0-13 in its last 13 games when allowing two bills or more, going back to the shootout win over Purdue in the middle of 2014.