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Golden Gopher Potluck Part 4: Defense and the eternal debate: Hotdish or Casserole?

Let’s talk about the Golden Gopher defense

NCAA Football: Rutgers at Minnesota Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

PJ Fleck’s inaugural Golden Gopher staff includes several veteran coaches on the defensive line of the ball.

Former Arkansas DC Robb Smith in the same role also handling LB coaching duties.

I’ll let our friends at the Daily Gopher summarize the linebackers:

Key Departure(s): Jack Lynn and Nick Rallis

Key Returner(s): Jonathan Celestin, Cody Poock, Blake Cashman, Carter Coughlin, Kamal Martin, Julian Huff, Everett Williams, Jaylen Waters, and Thomas Barber

Spring Enrollee(s): Trenton Guthrie

Fall Enrollee(s): None

As far as I can tell, Jonathan Celestin, Kamal Martin and Thomas Barber will start at LB. Celestin had 80 tackles last fall.

Former NFL DT and Northern Iowa d-line coach Bryce Paup is now coaching the Gopher Defensive line. I’ll let our friends at the Daily Gopher sum it up for us:

(This) position group with a lot of talent but not nearly enough depth .. (snip)

Key Departure(s): Gaelin Elmore, Hendrick Ekpe, Scott Ekpe, and Yoshoub Timms

Key Returner(s): Steven Richardson, Andrew Stelter, Winston DeLattiboudere, Merrick Jackson, Tai’yon Devers, and Gary Moore

Spring Enrollee(s): None

Fall Enrollee(s): Royal Silver, Noah Hickcox, Boye Mafe, Esezi Otomewo, Malcolm Robinson, and Austin Schirck

Coughlin Carter appears to have switched to defensive end, and will be joined by Andrew Stetler, Steven Richardson and Winston DeLattiboudere .

Former Mississippi State Safeties coach Maurice Linguist is now the Defensive Backs coach.

I’ll let our friends at TDG summarize his charges:

(snip) We close out our spring position previews with a look at a position in desperate need of warm bodies: Defensive back.

Key Departure(s): Damarius Travis, Jalen Myrick, KiAnte Hardin, and Ray Buford

Key Returner(s): Antoine Winfield, Jr., Antonio Shenault, Duke McGhee, Kunle Ayinde, Kiondre Thomas, Jacob Huff, Zo Craighton, and Coney Durr

Spring Enrollee(s): None

Fall Enrollee(s): Adam Beck, Ken Handy-Holly, and Justus Harris

I will miss Damarius Travis. He graduates having played in 53 games and started 23 of them during his career as a Gopher. Last season, after returning from a hamstring injury that cost him all but one game of the 2015 season, Travis led the team with 83 tackles and recorded five tackles for loss, four pass breakups, two interceptions, and one fumble recovery.

The Gophers also lose both starters at cornerback. Senior Jalen Myrick, who ran the fastest 40 time of any Big Ten draft prospect in the history of the NFL Combine, is all but certain to be playing on Sundays next season. Myrick played in 47 games over four seasons at Minnesota and started 21 of them. Last season, he recorded 41 tackles, 11 pass breakups, and one interception. KiAnte Hardin is the other loss at cornerback after being expelled. The Gophers’ secondary struggled mightily last season when Hardin wasn’t on the field. Despite missing five games due to suspension, Hardin finished with 39 tackles, two interceptions, and six pass breakups.

Ray Buford, a reserve cornerback, is also gone after being expelled and transferring to Arizona Western Community College. Buford played in seven games as a redshirt freshman, recording 16 tackles and three pass breakups.

How will the Golden Gopher defense do this year?

Last year during Rutgers week we waded into the classic debate: Taylor Ham vs Pork Roll. Minnesotans call Casserole “Hot Dish” for some inexplicable reason.

What do you call it, and why?


Casserole or Hotdish

This poll is closed

  • 52%
    (55 votes)
  • 47%
    (49 votes)
104 votes total Vote Now

LPW: It’s Casserole. I bet Minnesotan’s like to drink a few coldcylinders of Grain Belt or Surly as well. Sheesh.

As for the defense: I honestly have no idea. It’s hard to tell when a new staff is coming in. I think my colleagues can add some better insight.

MNW: We've had this discussion like five times this week. This is some Dane Cook-level shit.

I see two potential problems for the Minnesota defense, and that's those are the secondary and the Gopher offense. If Peej and Warriner try to speed things up and shorten drives, that could spell trouble for a defense that doesn't have the greatest depth. Richardson in particular impresses me on the d-line, but will an up-tempo offense have him pulling an Adrian Clayborn midway through games after the offense goes 3-and-out?

And that's how I'd attack this Gopher defense: quick passing, especially if greener DBs give WRs 7-8 yards, working the sidelines and then trying to catch the middle of the field napping, though my memory tells me Celestin is a disciplined, smart MLB. Peej is inheriting a real opportunity with this defense, but can the secondary hold up lon enough for the pass rush to get there?

WSR: Maybe? Who knows. It’ll be interesting to see if we get the Robb Smith that wasn’t terrible at Rutgers or the Robb Smith that was part of that sinking ship in Fayetteville. And MNW’s right about the depth in regards to tempo. We just don’t have anywhere near the fat kids we need, and that’ll be a problem as the season rolls on and little injuries pile up. There should be enough starting talent to be strongly middle of the pack, but we’ll see how things actually shake out.

And for the last time, it’s hotdish.

MNW: I know, right? Why the fuck do we keep having this conversation?

WSR: Because people just don’t learn, and this seems easier to discuss than why PSU should have a public melting of the JoePa statue.

Speth: If we all played Minnesota’s game and just named things by temperature and what they were served in, nobody would know what the hell we were talking about. I suppose that’s much like Minnesotans and talking about winning the Axe though. That being said, I’ll go back to eating my roomtempratureplate. Is it a sandwich? Is it leftover pizza? The world will never know.

As far as Minnesota’s defense goes, I have no idea. It’s not as good as Wisconsin’s, but that’s because it doesn’t have Jack Cichy. Can’t wait for them to sneak into a bowl at 5-7 again.

Apparently Minnesota doesn’t have DL depth. I’m sure that won’t cost them in their last game against a smashmouth football team.