Minnesota Scouting Report: Defense

GBW correspondent <b>Josh Turel</b> has broken down the game film and scoured through a number of publications to give you everything you need to know about the Gopher defense and special teams. Game prediction also included.

#13 University of Minnesota Golden Gophers
Head Coach: Glen Mason
2004 Record: 5-0, 2-0 Big Ten
Returning starters: 5 offense, 6 defense, punter, and kicker

Defensive Stat Leaders

Tackles: Terrance Campbell- 35
TFL: Anthony Montgomery - 5.5 for 14 yds
Sacks: Darrell Reid- 4 for 38 yds
INT: Ukee Dozier- 2 for 20 yds
Breakups: Ukee Dozier- 10

Stat-Big Ten Ranking

Scoring defense (4th) 16.4 pts
Pass defense (10th) 271.8 yds
Rushing defense (5th) 97.8 avg.
Total defense (7th) 369.6 yds
Punt returns (7th) 10.1 avg.
Kick returns (8th) 19.7avg

2-Deeps

RE: Eric Clark (So.) Mario Reese (So.)
DE: Darrell Reid (Sr.) Pat McCarthy (So.)
NT: Anthony Montgomery (Jr.) Neel Allen (Rs Fr.)
DT: Mark Losli (Jr.) Keith Lipka (Jr.)
WLB: Terrance Campbell (Jr.) Leland Jones (Fr.)
MLB: Kyle McKenzie (Jr.) Brian Smith (Sr.)
DLB: Dominique Sims (Sr.) Brandon Owens (So.)
CB: Ukee Dozier (Sr.) Mike Wojciechowski (Sr.)
CB: Trumaine Banks (So.) Jamal Harris (Fr.)
FS: John Pawielski (Jr.) Johnathan Richmond (Sr.)
SS: Justin Fraley (Sr.) Quentin White (Jr.)
K: Rhys Lloyd (Sr.)
P: Rhys Lloyd (Sr.)
PR: Marion Barber III (Jr.)
KR: Marion Barber III (Jr.)


Defensive Strategy:

Minnesota runs a basic 4-3 defense with a drop linebacker and rush end built in. Basically the drop backer’ (Dominique Sims) mans the tight end at the line of scrimmage and drops into pass coverage. The rush end plays more aggressively and usually is the team’s most athletic lineman and has the responsibility of getting a consistent pass rush off the edge. The pass rush has been inconsistent thus far. If that trend continues, look for the Gophers to start blitzing its linebackers more frequently because they are an athletic bunch.

Defensive MVP: DE Darrell Reid
Strength: Interior defensive line
Weakness: Safeties
Key to success: Pass rush
Surprise player: DL Kyle McKenzie

Darrell Reid has been the star lineman so far, recording four sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss. He is very quick for a big man and really pursues the play well. He is undisputed leader of the defense and has been a rock up front with his solid play. Anthony Montgomery lines up at nose tackle, where he can be a load to block when’s he playing well. Not only has he done well against the run, he also has been getting into the backfield more than expected this year. If he can play consistent, he could be a strong force in the middle. Next to him will be Mark Losli. Losli is a big athletic kid that doesn’t have a great feel for the position just yet, but he can be effective in one-on-one situations (which he’ll see plenty of thanks to the attention paid to Montgomery). Eric Clark mans the rush end spot. He’s an athletic edge player that will be depended upon to disrupt the backfield.

Will linebacker Terrance Campbell is the team's leading tackler (which comes as no surprise). He isn’t a stack and shed type guy, but he can fill against the run, chase down a play (4.5 speed), and he’s dependable in coverage. Mike linebacker Kyle McKenzie is a Detroit St. Martin DePorres product that was moved inside from drop linebacker and it has worked out fairly well. He has the instincts and block shedding ability to support against the run well. At drop linebacker will be Dominique Sims. Sims was a highly recruited kid that started his career off at safety but moved to linebacker last season. He is an outstanding athlete, he doesn’t have great power, but he covers well and is a chase type linebacker.

Ukee Dozier has really elevated his game this season recording 2 interceptions and 10 pass breakups along with 27 tackles. At 6’1 and sporting a 37-inch vertical, most opposing receivers won’t win jump balls over him. In addition, Dozier has excellent man on man skills and protects himself well from getting beat deep. On the other corner will be sophomore Trumaine Banks. Banks is a developing coverage player but he’s feisty and fearless supporting against the run. The safeties aren’t immensely talented, Justin Fraley supports the run well but lacks the range of departed Justin Isom. Free safety John Pawielski is a former walk on, but he plays pretty well against the run. The secondary has done a good job of not allowing big plays but they still need to tighten up in the mid-range passing game.


Special Teams

This is a real struggling unit, “Our kicking game, obviously because of the type of talent we will face by their kicking game, if we self-destruct like we did last week, we’ll have no chance” said Head Coach Glen Mason. Rhys Lloyd, who was expected to be a Lou Groza candidate, is off to a poor start, averaging only 37.1 yards per punt and has only connected on 5 of 9 field goals (including only one outside of the 40). The Gophers have also had five kicks blocked in the last two games. The return game isn’t up to spec, after a solid year last season, Barber hasn’t provided much of a spark as a returner. Why Maroney isn’t doing it…I have no idea.


Prediction

Don’t let the big time stats fool you…Minnesota has played a cakewalk schedule thus far. That said, the team does have a lot of talent on the offensive side of the ball. Of course the key is to slow down Maroney and Barber. But that alone won’t get Michigan out of the woods. Wheelwright and Ellerson are two guys that cannot be slept on by the Michigan defense. This is will be Michigan’s test to see if their #1 ranking is legit or misleading. I really like the 3-4 against the zone block scheme, with more speed at linebacker (making it hard for the guards to reach them) and big guys Harrison/Watson who can penetrate and beat double teams. Ryan Mundy/Ernest Shazor will play a big role in filling the alley to take away the cutbacks from the backs. Michigan, if they stay disciplined and can read/react to the run quickly, could contain Minnesota. On the offensive side of the ball, Michigan is going to face some good resistance to the run game and yards won’t come very easily there. Henne will be able to work this secondary, but I wouldn’t expect too many Braylon bombs on Ukee Dozier. This game will be very close. If it were on the road I honestly couldn’t say Michigan was going to win but the Wolverines will feed off the Big House crowd and pull off a narrow victory on the arm of Chad Henne.

Michigan- 27
Minnesota- 21


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