Previewing the Minnesota Defense

GoBlueWolverine's Josh Turel breaks down the Minnesota defense by analyzing the Gopher personnel.

Statistical Leaders:
Mike Sherels: 25 tackles
Steve Davis: 2.5 sacks, 3.5 tackles for loss
Jamal Harris: two interceptions

Defensive Personnel:

Defensive Line

Left Defensive End
#92 Steve Davis  6-2, 230, So.
#95 Sean McWhirter  6-3, 245, Fr.
Right Defensive End
#91 William Van DeSteeg  6-4, 235, So.
#65 William Brody  6-5, 230, So.
Right Defensive Tackle
#99 Garrett Brown  6-2, 285, Fr.
#70 Todd Meisel  6-4, 255, Jr.

Left Defensive Tackle
#98 Neel Allen  6-3, 285, Jr.
#90 Eric Clark  6-4, 265, Sr.

Glen Mason's defense has always been his achilles heel at Minnesota, and thus far the unit hasn't shown much improvement from past seasons. The defensive line lacks star power and is very weak on the interior. Tackles Neel Allen and Garrett Brown haven’t played the run well and reserves Eric Clark and Todd Miesel lack the size to contribute consistently. Defensive end Steve Davis is the only consistent pass rusher. He is vastly undersized but has the kind athletic ability that can give offensive lineman fits. He recorded six sacks last year and had arguably his best game against Michigan. The problem so far is the lack of a capable player on the other side. William Van DeSteeg plays with a lot of intensity, but just didn’t show much in big games against California and Purdue.


Weak side Linebacker
#46 John Shevlin  6-1, 220, Jr.
#44 Deon Hightower  6-3, 195, So.

Strong side Linebacker
#48 Mario Reese  6-3, 230, Sr.
#59 Steve Moore  6-2, 230, So.
Middle Linebacker
#58 Mike Sherels  6-0, 230, Jr.
#33 Tommy Becker  6-2, 230, Fr.

The linebackers are a fairly solid unit, but again, they lack star power. Mario Reese returns as the starter at strong side linebacker. The former defensive end still shows some inexperience at the position but he is the team's top blitzer and is also decent in coverage. MIKE linebacker Mike Sherels doesn’t have much range, but does a good job of patrolling the middle. Weak side linebacker John Shevlin may have the most range of the bunch and has carried over his solid play from last year. Shevlin has recorded 24 tackles, three tackles for loss, and one sack so far this season.


#4 Trumaine Banks  5-10, 185, Sr.
#9 Keith Massey  6-1, 200, Fr.

#15 Jamal Harris  6-0, 180, Jr.
#11 Desi Steib  6-1, 185, Jr.

Strong Safety:
#2 Dominic Jones  5-9, 180, So.
#26 Duran Cooley  6-0, 205, Jr.

Free Safety:
#23 Dominique Barber  6-0, 180, Jr.
#28 Kevin Mannion  6-2, 200, So.

The star of the defensive backfield is strong safety Dominic Jones. Jones was impressive last year as a true freshman.  What he lacks in size (5-9), he makes up for with excellent speed and athletic ability. He needs more polish and experience but he a playmaker on a defense that doesn't have many.  Free safety Domnique Barber is still getting accustomed to the position after seeing most of his time previously on special teams. Cornerbacks Jamal Harris and Trumaine Banks are decent but have a problem giving up the big play. California receivers Desean Jackson and LaVelle Hawkins had a field day with this group because of the Gopher secondary's inability to cover downfield. If they don’t find a way to slow down Michigan’s speedy wide receivers, the same thing will happen Saturday.

Special Teams:

#41 Justin Kucek  6-0, 180, So.

#31 Jason Giannini 5-9, 185, So.
#36 Joel Monroe  6-0, 180, So.

Kick Returner:
#2 Dominic Jones  5-9, 180, So.
#84 Logan Payne 6-2, 200, Sr.

Punt Returner:
#2 Dominic Jones 5-9, 180, So.
#84 Logan Payne 6-2, 200, Sr.

Kicker Jason Giannini has recovered from a sour finish to last season and has hit four of five field goals thus far.  His only miss came from beyond 50 yards.

Punter Justin Kucek doesn’t have great leg strength but is good at pinning opponents inside the 20.

The return game has been very explosive so far with Dominic Jones. Jones has averaged 12.5 yards on punt returns and took a kickoff back for a touchdown last week against Purdue.

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