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2019 Minnesota Gophers Defense Preview: Can Carter Coughlin & Co. Corral Competitors?

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I’m out of ideas. You get a hackneyed alliterative headline. Welcome to Minnesota Week.

Illinois v Minnesota
I just liked this picture, is all.
Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Minnesota Week. Day 3.

I had the pleasure of taking in the USMNT game with WhiteSpeedReceiver at Allianz Field last night—beautiful; go if you get the chance—and we spoke only briefly about Minnesota Week, because this was a happy place, not meant for depressing talk. Many Grain Belts were consumed (until Black Hart STP ran out, which I’m fairly certain is a felony in the state of Minnesota), the Loons beat Houston in the US Open Cup, and we procrastinated on our “writing” “responsibilities”.

Enter Day 3 of the Minnesota Potluck Extravaganza, and we’re too full and drunk (or hungover, whatever) to focus on food. Instead, let’s get away.

Question #1: Cabin Time!

It’s summer in Minnesota, and that means it’s cabin season, when tens of thousands of Minnesotans hitch the boat to the back of their minivan, load up the kids, and join their fellow families in gridlock on I-94 and I-35 as they head north to resort towns from Akeley to Zemple. (I believe our own WhiteSpeedReceiver may have just indulged in #cabinlife, too.)

So let’s have a nice, simple Wednesday assignment, readers: Where in your state would you put your vacation shanty?

If you want to up the degree of difficulty: You have $250,000. Find your nice little slice of paradise, and show your work.

Townie: If you want to get away from it all in eastern PA, you head north along the Delaware River. The trout fishing is great and there are few people. Equinunk, PA is that kind of place. The Yinzers in the west just go north to the big lake Erie. The walleye and perch fishing are good this time of year.

For me and my $250k, I headed south. I actually paid just a little more than that for my first house on an island in Florida. I wanted sunshine, beaches, and a population that makes my little quirks look absolutely normal. Long Live Florida Man!

Dead Read: I think I would love to have a cabin in the Niobrara River valley, which travels through the Sandhills in the north central part of the state. A second choice would be in “Hidden Paradise” in Long Pine, Nebraska - out of nowhere, it is like a little slice of the Black Hills. It has a beautiful stream running through it, filled with trout. Both places are beautiful and serene.

BRT: I’d probably go be DeadRead’s neighbor near the Niobrara River—although it’s been a bit flood-prone this year. :(

Jesse: It sort of depends which state I’m talking about. If we’re talking Nebraska, I’m actually going a little different than my fellow colleagues from the Cornhusker State. I’d go up to the Ponca, NE area around the Missouri River. I looked for a place that is $250k, but there just isn’t a lot of places to buy or rent or anything. I love it there, though. Grew up going there all the time and it was just so so beautiful.

As for Texas, well, that’s kind of a crazy answer too. I’d love something in the Hill Country in Austin, definitely along Lake Travis - which is actually just a river that they keep calling a lake. However, there are hundreds of beautiful places in Texas because it’s gigantic. Also, lolol $250k for this.

Boilerman31: Indiana kinda sucks on the wilderness scene. Most of the northern two-thirds of the state is flat and agricultural. The southern third, while more hilly and somewhat scenic, contains Bloomington and other related cesspools (although Brown County State Park is nice). I guess if I’m building somewhere, I’ll go with one of the small lakes that dot Northern Indiana and hope it’s not too overcrowded.

MNW: Of Minnesota’s primary in-state getaway regions, I’m broadly listing four:

  • “North Central”—yes Brainerd is “North Central” no one cares about the broad swath of fucking nothing from Bemidji to International Falls, shut up
  • ”Western Lakes”—Alexandria, Detroit Lakes, whatever else is up there. Is Ashby up there? Good. Ashby, too. There’s a brewery there I want to visit.
  • “East Central”—think “east of St. Cloud, not quite to Duluth.” Mille Lacs is the main spot here, lots of weird piney cabins around Moose Lake. Good?
  • “Iron Range”—east of Itasca, north of Duluth. Basically if you take the I-35 Cloquet exit that says “Range Cities” or whatever and don’t go to Duluth, you’re there.

As putting it last might suggest, the Iron Range is my favorite place in Minnesota. It’s jagged, it’s pine-forested, it’s got weird ethnic communities still probably speaking Finnish and Croatian, people who talk like me, etc. Some friends of the family have built their log cabin on a lake near Biwabik, and I want it. I’ve stayed in a “rustic-lite” cabin (electricity, running water that’s not potable) on Lake Vermilion where you shit in an outhouse and rinse off in a real sauna. Somewhere in-between those two is what $250K gets me on the Range. To Zillow!

Oh hello, a winner right off the bat. Welcome to my $240K cabin on Miners Lake in Ely.

[/record scratch]

HOLD THE FUCKING PHONE.

A SCHOOL! A FULL, HISTORIC SCHOOL! I am buying this, opening a brewery, and living above it. This is amazing.

Poll

What’s your "must-have" in a cabin?

This poll is closed

  • 7%
    Near a river or stream, secluded
    (10 votes)
  • 0%
    Long live Florida Man!
    (1 vote)
  • 3%
    Gimme some big-ass Texas "lake" home
    (5 votes)
  • 8%
    Iron Range, all the way
    (11 votes)
  • 23%
    A nice, small lake off the beaten path
    (31 votes)
  • 5%
    I’m so angry about MNW’s divisions of Minnesota that I can’t even pick
    (8 votes)
  • 50%
    FUCK IT, WE’RE BUYING A SCHOOL
    (68 votes)
134 votes total Vote Now

PJ Fleck made a radical change in the middle of 2018, firing defensive coordinator Robb Smith (whose greatest crime was spelling Robb with two b’s) after a November 3 mollywhopping at the hands of the Illinois Fighting Illini—of all fucking teams! Under interim Joe Rossi, the Gophers buckled down, checking Rondale Moore and Purdue in a 41-10 win, only allowed Noted Fraud Northwestern to crack 20 points against the vaunted Gopher defense (?) the rest of the way. Now Rossi has the full-time tag, and the Gophers’ defense...could be damn legit.

The biggest question mark on the Minnesota defense is up the middle, where the Gophers have age in Sam Renner and Micah Dew-Treadway, but not a ton in production or experience (they lost three DTs from 2018). After that? Multi-year starters at linebacker in Thomas Barber and Kamal Martin. Once-again-healthy S Antoine Winfield, Jr. CBs in Coney Durr and Terell Smith who have a year’s experience under their belts. Strong-side DEs in Winston DeLattiboudere and Esezi Otomewo who are high-motor rushers.

Oh, and Carter Coughlin. Whether he’s lining up as the fourth linebacker in a 3-4 scheme or a defensive end in a 4-3 look, Coughlin’s 15 TFL and 9.5 sacks in 2018 will have him high on NFL draft boards in 2020. That’s a loaded group with half the returners, as long as Coughlin’s there.

So we ask, writers: Is this Joe Rossi defense the real deal, or will an off-season give folks time to figure the Gophers out? Tell us how the Minnesota defense finishes up in 2019.

Bonus: The Gophers just signed German DE Melle Kreuder, and he joins foreign Gophers like Aussie Daniel Faalele and new Dutch CB recruit Richard Agyekum. Who’s the noteworthy foreign-born recruit in your program’s history?

Jesse: I think it’s probably somewhere in the middle, right? Like, the Gopher defense definitely did better after the change, but I have to believe some of that could not have just been on the coordinator. Otherwise, holy hell is the head coach not paying attention at all. I mean, I watched the Nebraska game. Devine Ozigbo ran away from defenders all day and you cannot convince me that is still not somewhat of an indictment on what the tension between success and failure really is.

Ok, that said, I think you could see Minnesota in the top half of defense in the Big Ten. Part of their problem - hopefully for them - is that they could be on the field a lot because their offense is moving pretty fast and might be really successful. More possessions for the opponent could cause some statistical anomalies even if they are that good. So yeah, top half but maybe better than that.

Boilerman31: The element of surprise will be gone. Teams should know what to expect of Minnesota’s defense this year. That said, the contrast between the Illinois and Purdue games was quite striking.

As for the most noteworthy foreign born recruit. Umm, well, football doesn’t really have any that come to mind. I guess if we’re going foreign, we’re going basketball and Matt Haarms. Oh, that glorious hair.

MNW: I keep wanting to say Carter Coughlin will get figured out, but I thought Paddy Fisher would get figured out, too, and he just keeps on rolling. As for Joe Rossi...the rest of the Big Ten has now had an off-season to watch tape of his defenses, and we’ll see if it’s as simple, as WSR suggested this morning, as just “Do your job, and you’ll succeed.”

I’m worried about the depth in the middle of the line and on the corners. If safeties are having to support Durr and Smith, or the interior of the line is weak, you’ve got pieces of the Minnesota defense you can pick on with quick passing or punishing runs. Is this the Gophers run D, under Rossi alone, that held Purdue and Northwestern under 3 ypc, or the one that yielded 4.7 to wisconsin and 5.5 (more understandably) to the Georgia Tech triple option? I’m not counting on wisconsin to turn the ball over 4 times (unless Joel Stave is playing at Ryan Field), so we’ll see how the Gophers fare when they dip their toes into an easy start to Big Ten play—@Purdue, vs. Illinois, vs. Nebraska.

Poll

How will the Gopher defense finish in 2019?

This poll is closed

  • 11%
    ELITE.
    (17 votes)
  • 35%
    Top-half of the conference—Carter Coughlin is no joke, but he can’t do it all.
    (55 votes)
  • 37%
    Solidly middling.
    (58 votes)
  • 12%
    Bottom-half: Joe Rossi gets exposed.
    (19 votes)
  • 3%
    Rutgers-level bad. Time for a new DC! Is Ted Roof available?
    (5 votes)
154 votes total Vote Now

I’ll admit—I’m hoping, now, that the comments bail us out on the foreign-born players. Because I was thinking that between the proliferation of Aussie punters in the conference and historic trailblazers like Michigan State kicker Dirk Kryt, we would’ve had more to talk about.

Give us your thoughts in the comments!