It is said that it is easier to pick up a new defensive scheme than an offensive scheme. With a veteran defensive unit this fall, Gopher fans should expect to see the defense keeping the Gophers in games while the offense finds a groove. With a new aggressive style, a bevy of young athletic pass rushers, and senior leadership inside the Gophers should improve upon last years sack totals as well as total yards given up.
Last year the Gophers broke in three new starting linebackers and struggled early on with assignments. This year they look to be strong up the middle and should play with fewer missed reads. Best case scenario with the defensive line being let loose is that the Gophers' linemen make a living in opposing teams backfields breaking up both running and passing plays, allowing for the linebackers to clean up.
With a renewed pass rush the pressure is taken off of the secondary and with strong senior leadership from Kim Royston and Troy Stoudermire the pass defense is much improved. The defense is able to able to keep the offense within striking distance early in the season and as the offense matures the Gophers are able to surprise some teams and finish 7-5 or 8-4.
The worst case scenario for this year's defensive squad is the pass rush is not able to get going, forcing more blitzes which in turn puts more pressure on a shaky secondary. With unproven depth behind Brandon Kirksey and Anthony Jacobs, the defensive line gets worn down and teams are able to get early leads through the air then salt games away late with a strong running game against a gassed line. Coincide this with a struggling offense the Gophers could find themselves in the midst of another 3-9 season.
The realistic scenario seems somewhat similar to best case scenario but not quite to that extent of success. This year the Gophers should have a much improved pass rush that should be consistent enough that coach Tracy Claeys will not have to start dialing up blitzes on a play-to-play basis just to get pressure on the opponents' quarterback. With a good pass rush some of the pressure will be taken off the secondary and the linebackers should be solid.
The outlook for this year's defense is that it should be much improved over last year. They're probably not going to wow fans but they should be around middle of the pack. The early season slate starts off difficult at USC but the remaining three games should not give the defense too much worry, though Miami does look to be a team on the rise and could give the Gophers some trouble.
The veteran defense should give this team a good chance to win while the offense finds its legs early on. By the time conference play start the defense should be at the top of it's game while the offense is starting to hit it's stride. For this season the Gophers could certainly win six game realistically, but will most likely end up 5-7.