Midseason Report: Defense

At the midway point of the season, the Gophers find themselves with a 1-5 record. With six games left of the schedule, the Gophers are searching for a way to rebound and have a strong second half. An important part of this turnaround must come from the defense. Let's examine the strengths and weaknesses of the defense to see what needs to be changed for the last stretch of the 2010 season.

Strength: The biggest strength of the defense has been the play of senior safety Kyle Theret. Theret sat out the first two games of the season due to a team rules violation but has been a consistent presence in the Gophers secondary. In a secondary that has succumbed to injuries of Michael Carter and a lengthy injury to senior safety Kim Royston, Theret has been the most dependable player. Many of Theret's teammates have continually missed tackles, gotten burned on deep balls and made poor reads.

The senior safety from Murrieta, California rarely misses a tackle and is especially effective at shutting down running backs who make it past the defensive line. This season, Theret has also been a spark with his energy and tenacity on the field.

Theret has also had a great first half of the season statistically. In just four games he has 35 total tackles with an interception, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. If the Gophers want to improve their defensive performance, Theret must continue to lead his younger teammates on the field. If Theret continues to execute, the younger, less experienced members of the defense will begin to improve and hopefully impact the dynamic of the struggling defense.

Weakness: The most glaring weakness of the Gophers defense has been the defensive line. Throughout the season, the line has not been able to stop quality running backs or contain agile quarterbacks. Part of the problem seems to be the lack of experience.

Jewhan Edwards, Brandon Kirksey and Anthony Jacobs are all juniors. All players who see time on the line are sophomore D.L. Wilhite and redshirt freshman Ra'Shede Hageman. The lack of experience becomes obvious in games where the Gophers' opponents have a strong rushing attack. Minnesota has given up games of 216, 297 and 250 rush yards to USC, Northern Illinois and Wisconsin respectively.

The Gophers are dead last in the Big Ten, allowing an average of 196 rush yards per game. To add to the woes of the defensive line, the group has only accounted for three sacks on the season which again ranks them last in the conference. The turnaround for the Gophers defensive line will not be easy.

A place to start would be to increase pressure on the quarterback. Bringing in a variety of players should help give the defense different looks. They can also try more blitz packages to flush the quarterback out of the pocket. If the team wants to success they will need better play in both stopping the run and pressuring the quarterback.

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