Spring Preview: Linebackers

Linebackers play a key role on any team making plays in both the running game as well as the passing game. Over the past few years the linebackers have been the strength of the Golden Gophers defense.

Last year the linebackers battled injuries but were still able to be one of the strengths of the team. This year it appears to be no different with all three starters returning along with key backups and the addition of Florida transfer Brendan Be.

The Linebackers

Brendan Beal: The sophomore from Liberty High School (PA.) was a five-star prospect, No. 6 rated strongside linebacker by Scout.com and transferred to the Golden Gophers last year from the Florida Gators. Beal had to sit for a season due to transfer rules, prior to that he had missed both the 2008 and 2009 seasons at Florida due to injuries.

This spring he has been taking reps at the mike linebacker position. With a year to sit hopefully he has put the injury bug behind him and can be a solid contributor on the Gophers defensive unit. From film Beal showed good anticipation, strength and speed. He did a very good job of reading the offense and taking good angles to the point of attack.

Keanon Cooper: The junior from Skyline High School (TX.) was a three-star prospected, No. 37 rated safety by Scout.com and was part of the 2008 Golden Gophers recruiting class. Cooper in two seasons has played in 25 games making 111 tackles, 1.5 sacks, seven tackles for loss, two blocked kicks and a forced fumble.

He is arguably one of the fastest players on the team. Cooper shows very good instincts and aggressiveness and at times has shown the ability to run down opposing running backs and wide receivers on the opposite side of the field.

Mike Rallis: The junior from Edina High School (MN.) was an unrated safety by Scout.com and was a walk-on in the 2008 and was later awarded a scholarship his freshman year. Rallis saw action his freshman season at the safety position and special teams appearing in all 13 games. In 2009 his season was cut short by a broken leg suffered in the Cal game.

During the 2010 season he battled injuries appearing in nine games while starting six. In those nine games he made 37 tackles, six tackles for loss and three interceptions. Rallis has been a solid contributor and arguably the best linebacker when healthy. He showed very good instincts and awareness in both the passing and running game.

Gary Tinsley: The senior from First Coast High School (FL.) was a two-star prospect, No. 44 middle linebacker by Scout.com and was part of the 2008 Golden Gophers recruiting class. Tinsley has appeared in 32 games in his Gophers career.

In his first two seasons he appeared mostly on special teams and as a back-up. In 2010, his first as a starter, Tinsley made 90 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and one interception. Over his career Tinsley has proven to be a solid tackler who can diagnose plays and make plays at the point of attack.

Ryan Grant: The junior from Eden Prairie High School (MN.) was a two-star prospect, No. 65 weakside linebacker by Scout.com and was part of the 2008 Golden Gophers recruiting class. Grant has played mostly as on special teams and backup where he has made 22 tackles. Right now Grant appears to be a very capable back-up and can be a spot starter when needed.

Spencer Reeves: The junior form Skyline High School (TX.) was a three-star, No. 25 weakside linebacker by Scout.com and was part of the 2008 Golden Gophers recruiting class. Reeves has played in 20 games making two starts and has made 24 tackles and one tackle for loss over his two seasons at Minnesota. He is capable of backing up all three linebacker positions and like Grant is a very capable back-up who can be a spot starter when needed.

Aaron Hill: The sophomore from Lutheran High School (MO.) was an unrated linebacker who joined the Golden Gophers as a walk-on in 2009. Hill played in 12 games last season and started one while making 14 tackles and one fumble. He is another solid back-up like the Reeves and Grant where when he comes into a game you can expect a slight drop-off in play.

Incoming Freshmen

Jephete Matilus: From Atlantic High School (FL.) he was rated two-star, No. 175 outside linebacker by Scout.com. Matilus split time between defensive end and linebacker. On film he does a very good job of shedding blocks and getting after the quarterback and breaking up plays at the defensive end position. He has very good sideline to sideline speed and takes good angles in pursuit of the ball carrier. He's very athletic and has a non-stop motor.

Quinn Bauducco: From Moorpark High School (CA.) he was rated a three-star, No. 41 middle linebacker by Scout.com. He does very well finding the ball carrier and wrapping up. When blitzing he does an adequate job of shedding blockers. He shows good instincts and reads plays very well.

Peter Westerhaus: From Holy Family High School (MN.) he was rated a three-star, No. 70 tight-end by Scout.com. He has very good sideline to sideline speed and always seems to be attacking the offensive line on blitzes. Westerhaus also does a very good job of reading plays and filling the hole to make the stop.


Overall this is a very talented group at the linebacker position and should be the strongest on the defensive side of the ball. With Tinsley being usurped by Beal in the middle so far it will be interesting to see where Tinsley ends up next season.

If injuries do befall some of the starters there are some very good back-ups in Grant, Hill and Reeves who can step in and only have a small step down in production. All three of the back-ups have some starting experience and will grow from last year.

There are also two players Dwayne Mitchell and Brent Singleton who's impact on the team will most likely be on special teams.


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