4. College Football News Preview 2020: Minnesota Golden Gophers Defense 3 Things To Know
– The offense is loaded with veterans and stars from the breakthrough season ready to do a whole lot more. The defense … not so much.
Five Gophers were drafted, four of them were from the defensive side that finished tenth in the nation in total defense and was ninth in pass D. Seven of the top eight tacklers and nine of the top 12 are done, starting with do-it-all safety Antoine Winfield who’s now a Tampa Bay Buccaneer.
Fellow defensive back Chris Williamson is gone, as are linebacking stars Kamal Martin and Thomas Barber. However, the biggest early concern is a defensive front that has to find more killers on the outside and options in the interior.
– Top end Carter Coughlin is done along with two other starters on the line. 6-4, 315-pound former Notre Dame transfer Micah Dew-Treadway is back to be the anchor on the inside after making 13 tackles in the rotation. There’s size among the depth, but the pass rushers have to emerge.
6-6, 275-pound junior Esezi Otomewo and 6-4, 260-pound junior Boye Mafe bring the size, but they have to get it into the backfield in their bigger roles.
– Jordan Howden is back. The Las Vegas native finished fourth on the team with 57 tackles, and now he becomes the veteran main man for a secondary that loses several key parts – including Kiondre Thomas, who transferred to Kansas State – but has enough back to be okay in time. Senior Koney Durr was a broken up pass machine at one corner job, but it’s going to take some work to get the safeties right – there isn’t another Winfield.
Even with some next-level losses, the linebacking corps should be fine with the combination of Braelen Oliver, Thomas Rush, and Mariano Sari-Marin just experienced enough to be okay right away. 6-5, 225-pound Itayvion Brown was the team’s top recruit – he’s going to be a linebacking star early in his career.