Defensive Concerns

SPEGOPHER

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While I think that everyone is optimistic for the Gopher offense this year (although depth at offensive line is a major concern) defense is another story IMO.

While I don't feel great about any position group besides CB, the LB group is my biggest cause for concern. We lose a ton of production from last year, Oliver is out apparently, and the only ones with experience (Sori-Marin and Rush) haven't exactly shined. I know that there are some exciting young players out there (Nubin, freshmen d-line) but I am curious if people feel the same regarding the state of our defense.
 

MNVCGUY

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There are probably roughly 1000 threads on this site you can search up for discussions about the defense heading into this year.

Obviously it is the big unknown on the team. The guys we lost (outside of Winfield) were not all world performers but they were steady experienced guys who were the leaders on that side of the ball. In their place we have what appears to be better athletes, many of whom have gotten a decent amount of playing time but have never been counted on to be the leader at their position.

Average teams rebuild, good teams reload. We will find out where we are at on defense pretty quickly. The offense should be really good again which will take some of the pressure off of the new starters on defense. If they can gel quickly the sky is the limit for this team.
 

Otis

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Sori-Marin and Rush stood out in the Auburn game when they were on the field in my opinion. LB is not a bad position group for the Gophers as long as they can be sure tacklers. The guys they are replacing were limited players who were good tacklers.

CB and Safety are strength positions with the exception of the TREMENDOUS loss of Winfield who obviously is a special player. Can the overall playoff the returning players make up for the one special player's impact? We better hope so.

Defensive Line is where we usually have the biggest disadvantage to the other B1G teams. We are doing better under PJ and Kill, but until we get some real steady play out of the defensive line, it will be hard to play good defense. Bed DL puts more pressure on everyone behind them and improvement here would be the best way to make up for the loss of Winfield on the back end.
 

Mitu

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We’ve got the most athletic defense we’ve had in some time, but they are definitely green.

I think MSM struggled early last season, but he improved a lot as the year went on. Keep in mind that he was also playing out of position at Martin’s spot; he’s a more natural fit for Barber’s spot.

I think the DL will take a couple of games to get going, but I’m excited about what Mafe and Big O can do on the outside.
 

fmlizard

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The mere loss of AWJr's presence is scary.

  • Tampa Bay was #29 vs the pass in 2019 (and #27 in 2018, #32 in 2017)
  • They are now #5 overall and gave Rodgers his 2nd worst game as a pro

They changed no other starters in their secondary besides adding AWJr. AWJr will be a multi-year All Pro.
 

MGGopher

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Average teams rebuild, good teams reload. We will find out where we are at on defense pretty quickly. The offense should be really good again which will take some of the pressure off of the new starters on defense. If they can gel quickly the sky is the limit for this team.
This. The season will tell us a lot about Minnesota's depth and talent development. I understand the trepidation as it's not often the Gophers lose four defensive players to the NFL and another who started over 40 games. Elite programs go through this almost every year. Is MN elite? We'll find out pretty quick.
 

noamfromm

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The mere loss of AWJr's presence is scary.

  • Tampa Bay was #29 vs the pass in 2019 (and #27 in 2018, #32 in 2017)
  • They are now #5 overall and gave Rodgers his 2nd worst game as a pro

They changed no other starters in their secondary besides adding AWJr. AWJr will be a multi-year All Pro.
They were quite young last year, though that doesn't take away from AWJr11 being elite.
 

Triple D

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The mere loss of AWJr's presence is scary.

  • Tampa Bay was #29 vs the pass in 2019 (and #27 in 2018, #32 in 2017)
  • They are now #5 overall and gave Rodgers his 2nd worst game as a pro

They changed no other starters in their secondary besides adding AWJr. AWJr will be a multi-year All Pro.
He'd look good in Purple right about now.
 

noamfromm

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There are probably roughly 1000 threads on this site you can search up for discussions about the defense heading into this year.

Obviously it is the big unknown on the team. The guys we lost (outside of Winfield) were not all world performers but they were steady experienced guys who were the leaders on that side of the ball. In their place we have what appears to be better athletes, many of whom have gotten a decent amount of playing time but have never been counted on to be the leader at their position.

Average teams rebuild, good teams reload. We will find out where we are at on defense pretty quickly. The offense should be really good again which will take some of the pressure off of the new starters on defense. If they can gel quickly the sky is the limit for this team.
The more important question is what percentage of those 1000 have Veritas letting us know that no one other than him knew we'd lose 7 defensive starters.
 

boofbonser

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The mere loss of AWJr's presence is scary.

  • Tampa Bay was #29 vs the pass in 2019 (and #27 in 2018, #32 in 2017)
  • They are now #5 overall and gave Rodgers his 2nd worst game as a pro

They changed no other starters in their secondary besides adding AWJr. AWJr will be a multi-year All Pro.
AWjr has been great for them this year certainly, but there are a couple factors besides that factoring into their better performance. All their starting corners are 24 years old or under and same with the safety starting next to AWjr. I think they all grew/learned a lot last year and it helps when your starting QB is actually decent, and not throwing 30 INTs a season. Keeps your defense off the field. Still think AWjr has a good shot at winning defensive rookie of the year though, exactly what that defense needed.
 

Mitu

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The more important question is what percentage of those 1000 have Veritas letting us know that no one other than him knew we'd lose 7 defensive starters.
Let’s be honest, Veritas is excited for no fans in the stand because then no one can block his view by standing during big games.
 

gophernut1

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This year we really learn the type of developmental coach that PJ and his staff really are, especially on the defensive side of the ball. I have no doubt PJ and staff were able to find creative ways to coach up their players during Covid-19 (just look at the way they excelled in recruiting). I think with the additional athleticism they will surprise in the B1G TEN by being in the top half, if not the top third in defense overall. The question in my mind is do they have a "playmaker?" Do they have that athlete that seems to understand the situation and the moment and make a play when it is absolutely necessary? I believe our biggest loss is having two of those types of players not around. Statistically I think we will be fine (like Cousins was at QB in 2019), if not even better than last year. However, I am not sure it will lead to victories.
 

MNVCGUY

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This year we really learn the type of developmental coach that PJ and his staff really are, especially on the defensive side of the ball. I have no doubt PJ and staff were able to find creative ways to coach up their players during Covid-19 (just look at the way they excelled in recruiting). I think with the additional athleticism they will surprise in the B1G TEN by being in the top half, if not the top third in defense overall. The question in my mind is do they have a "playmaker?" Do they have that athlete that seems to understand the situation and the moment and make a play when it is absolutely necessary? I believe our biggest loss is having two of those types of players not around. Statistically I think we will be fine (like Cousins was at QB in 2019), if not even better than last year. However, I am not sure it will lead to victories.
Here's the thing.....we needed our defense to bail us out in the non-conf season some. Once we hit Big Ten play last year it was a totally different story. We outscored our Big Ten opponents by 128 points or by an average of about 14 points a game. 4 of our wins were by more than 20, one was by 16 and only 2 were by less than 10 points.

If we assume that Fleck is smart enough not to try and reinvent the wheel on offense then we should once again be very very good on that side of the ball. So if the defense does a reasonable impression of last year's group we should be in great shape in most games. We don't have to be world beaters on defense we just need to make teams work for the points they get.

Now imagine if the defensive talent improves similar to how the offensive talent has under Fleck.....
 

Gopher_In_NYC

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Sori-Marin and Rush stood out in the Auburn game when they were on the field in my opinion. LB is not a bad position group for the Gophers as long as they can be sure tacklers. The guys they are replacing were limited players who were good tacklers.

CB and Safety are strength positions with the exception of the TREMENDOUS loss of Winfield who obviously is a special player. Can the overall playoff the returning players make up for the one special player's impact? We better hope so.

Defensive Line is where we usually have the biggest disadvantage to the other B1G teams. We are doing better under PJ and Kill, but until we get some real steady play out of the defensive line, it will be hard to play good defense. Bed DL puts more pressure on everyone behind them and improvement here would be the best way to make up for the loss of Winfield on the back end.
Saban, IIRC, said it is the hardest position to recruit - there aren't that many good ones and the good ones make a world of difference.
 

WriterGoph

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Secondary seems very solid. Veteran corners and some depth behind them. If Nubin can half the guy Winfield was and we have Howden with another year under his belt, safety looks pretty nice.

Linebackers obviously have a lot of turnover but we have recruited bigger and better athletes at this position for a couple years. Now is the time we get to see that come to fruition, but there is more upside at the position than I can remember.

DL also has more size and athleticism than ever before. We sat guys last year who probably could've contributed. The future is bright with Cheney, Carter, Keys, Harris, Anderson, etc.

Bottom line, I think we as fans are not used to the kind of athleticism and size that we have been recruiting on defense. For most of the Mason years, defense was our liability. For the Brewster years, most of the "studs" we landed didn't pan out or qualify. For the Kill years, we had some solid Ds, but not a lot of depth - so often times injuries or young guys playing was a huge liability. I think we are entering a new era for Gopher football of reloading (like some said above) and it's gonna be fun!
 

noamfromm

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Secondary seems very solid. Veteran corners and some depth behind them. If Nubin can half the guy Winfield was and we have Howden with another year under his belt, safety looks pretty nice.

Linebackers obviously have a lot of turnover but we have recruited bigger and better athletes at this position for a couple years. Now is the time we get to see that come to fruition, but there is more upside at the position than I can remember.

DL also has more size and athleticism than ever before. We sat guys last year who probably could've contributed. The future is bright with Cheney, Carter, Keys, Harris, Anderson, etc.

Bottom line, I think we as fans are not used to the kind of athleticism and size that we have been recruiting on defense. For most of the Mason years, defense was our liability. For the Brewster years, most of the "studs" we landed didn't pan out or qualify. For the Kill years, we had some solid Ds, but not a lot of depth - so often times injuries or young guys playing was a huge liability. I think we are entering a new era for Gopher football of reloading (like some said above) and it's gonna be fun!
While I like your optimism, I think we are three recruiting classes away from being able to (hopefully) reload.

As a point of clarification, where on the defense during the Kill years did you think we had young guys who were a huge liability?
 

WriterGoph

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While I like your optimism, I think we are three recruiting classes away from being able to (hopefully) reload.

As a point of clarification, where on the defense during the Kill years did you think we had young guys who were a huge liability?
I can't recall specific examples in those years. I guess a more apt answer is that I don't recall us recruiting this level of talent on defense with so many P5 offers. I think we can feel better about the likely arc of more of these recruits, whereas in the Kill years it was a lot more hoping we could coach up some under the radar guys. We definitely weren't beating out SEC teams for many recruits in those days. Hopefully that makes more sense
 

noamfromm

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I can't recall specific examples in those years. I guess a more apt answer is that I don't recall us recruiting this level of talent on defense with so many P5 offers. I think we can feel better about the likely arc of more of these recruits, whereas in the Kill years it was a lot more hoping we could coach up some under the radar guys. We definitely weren't beating out SEC teams for many recruits in those days. Hopefully that makes more sense
That's very fair, as we were our NFL calibre players only P5 offer --- save for Devondre Campbell
 

short ornery norwegian

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this may be over-generalizing, but on defense, there are two basic approaches.

if you have a couple of superstars, you can get by with average or even below-average players at a couple of other positions. The Gophers have certainly had years where some of their starters were probably not up to B1G standards.

but, if you don't have the superstars, you cannot afford to have a below-average player at any position. you have to have balance. On the DL, you don't necessarily have to have 'stars,' but you cannot be below average. you have to be able to throw at least 4 or 5 guys out there who can hold their own.

If you don't have the superstar, you can't hide or make up for a let-down at another position.

so, that is the challenge for the Gophers. Can they put 11 competent players out there to make up for the loss of Winfield?
 

#2Gopher

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LOL...most people on this board predict us to have a good season. Now we have a game coming up and people are saying we have this problem and we have this problem.

Will be fine. Get in the boat.
 

Triple D

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Jesus Christ looked into saving the Vikings Defense, decided the job was too hard.
I heard a lot of people shouting Jesus Christ at the bar when nobody bothered to cover the Tight End....LOL
 

#2Gopher

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I heard a lot of people shouting Jesus Christ at the bar when nobody bothered to cover the Tight End....LOL
Why do we need to bring Jesus Christ into the equation? What does he have to do with football as to this thread?
 

oak_street1981

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While I think that everyone is optimistic for the Gopher offense this year (although depth at offensive line is a major concern) defense is another story IMO.

While I don't feel great about any position group besides CB, the LB group is my biggest cause for concern. We lose a ton of production from last year, Oliver is out apparently, and the only ones with experience (Sori-Marin and Rush) haven't exactly shined. I know that there are some exciting young players out there (Nubin, freshmen d-line) but I am curious if people feel the same regarding the state of our defense.
Sorry for being ignorant, but what is up with Oliver? He was my #1 game changer this year at LB.

I was too hard on #55, he played OK last year. Rush was not standing out, I expected someone else to to step up, (RS, TF)
 

#2Gopher

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Two things:
1) We have to remember we're going to lose players to graduation or whatever every year, that is a given.
2) I do get what some of you are worried about as to some of the depth that we kind of considered as weak are now starters or at least contending for it. However we've had a couple good classes and I believe they will contribute as well. Unfortunately we're going to throw them in the fire right off the bat against Michigan as opposed to playing a so called weaker team right off the bat to get a feel for things.

In the end, I believe we'll be fine. All teams are going through this.
 
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