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B1G 2023: The Minnesota Defense Reloads

Will the results live up to the potential?

That’s a Coleman Bryson?
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Rossi doesn’t get enough credit for his work as Minnesota’s DC.

If you need more proof than just me saying it, try this: 3 teams have been in the top 10 of PPG allowed the past 2 seasons: Georgia, Michigan, and Minnesota. The Gophers have also been top 25 of yards per play each of the last two seasons, which is a far cry from nearly all Gopher defenses going back to the year 2000. Tradition dictates that Minnesota should be giving up yards and points by the hogshead, and that simply hasn’t been the case since Robb Smith was fired mid-season in 2018 and Rossi was elevated to the job. But if Rossi really wants to do something impressive, pulling off these things again would be quite the miracle.

Thomas Rush. Trill Carter. Mariano Sori-Marin. Braelin Oliver. Donald Willis. Terell Smith. Michael Dixon. Jordan Howden.

All of those guys started games last year, most of them started all. And they’re all gone. So is CB Beanie Bishop, but that’s not too terrible of a loss other than depth and experience. But it’s still 9 guys who were counted on that need to be replaced.

DE should be just fine with Jah Joyner, Danny Striggow, Jalen Logan-Redding, and Anthony Smith dividing up the playing time. Joyner and JLR in particular were quite good last year at creating pressure, and they should continue to disrupt passing games as more teams in the B1G West look to throw the ball despite not having the talent at QB or OL.

On the other hand, DT is...yeah. The departure of Carter to Texas via the portal is a huge loss, and that leaves Deven Eastern, Clemson transfer Darnell Jeffries, Kyler Baugh, Logan Richter, Jacob Schuster, and Luther McCoy to clog the middle. Baugh is the only one with considerable experience, but at least all of them have the size for the position. My concern here is that in addition to not a ton of game time, there’s also not really any depth other than what we see here. Godspeed, fat kids.

Yet another mixed bag is LB. Cody Lindenberg is really good, and he’s going to be counted on to lead the group. WMU transfer Ryan Selig is going to need to keep being a tackling machine, and after that...hoooboy. Again? The gloriously named Maverick Baranowski and the less gloriously but also potentially good Joey Gerlach are the next guys up. Not a ton of depth or experience here, either.

Another position with a guy or two who are excellent, but questions about depth and experience behind them? Sure, why not play this game at CB too! Justin Walley is a stud, and that’s cool. Ryan Stapp played quite a bit last year, so that’s nice. But then...SE Louisiana transfer Jack Henderson? Auburn transfer Craig McDonald? Victor Pless? Miles Flemming? Tariq Watson? Rhyland Kelly? Plenty of potential, not much actualization yet.

That should be more than enough of that, but we get to do this one last time at Safety. Tyler Nubin is back, and he’ll be joined by Bryson Coleman, Darius Green, and Aidan Gousby. Coleman was the MVP of whatever the fuck that bowl game was in NYC last year, so that counts as experience, right?

Minnesota has done a great job the past few years of recruiting well and letting guys develop before throwing them into the fire, but the portal and matriculation hit hard this offseason. If Rossi can pull off another year of plug & play results this season, it may be for Gopher fans to start worrying about losing him to a head coaching gig instead of just Notre Dame as the DC. That’s not a good thing, but it’s a having an elite coordinator is kinda nice.