Fall Camp Primer: Safeties

With the Minnesota football team opening fall camp on Friday, GopherDigest.com previews the safety position and asks the question on if the position will be better this fall.

Coming out of the spring the safety position for Minnesota is very strong as the Gophers arguably have five different guys who all could contribute at the position.

Led by seniors Damarius Travis and Antonio Johnson, who both have played in every game in their three years so far, along with JUCO All-American and former Iowa State safety Ace Rogers, the Golden Gophers have three players with legitimate game experience.

Meanwhile sophomore Duke McGhee was one of Minnesota's best special teams player a year ago and redshirt sophomore Kunle Ayinde has drawn praise from numerous defensive coaches as someone who could contribute this upcoming season. Secondary coach Jay Sawvel really has to like what he has right now.

Spring surprise: Ayinde much more than a walk-on

Maybe the most surprising development at the safety position this spring was the emergence of Ayinde.

After working in on special teams in seven games as a redshirt freshman last fall, Ayinde saw a lot of work with the second team defense this spring. With both seniors moving on after this upcoming season, the Minnesota native is definitely in the discussion for playing time next fall, if not this season potentially. Even head coach Jerry Kill described how he came out of nowhere this spring to put himself firmly on defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys radar.

Question that still needs answering: Ace Rogers role

With a senior starter ahead of him at each one of the spots in the defensive backfield, it'll be interesting to see how JUCO transfer Ace Rogers fits into the rotation this fall. He saw time at both nickel and safety this spring and is more than likely destined to be the fifth defensive back this fall.

His role being to play in the many different nickel packages that Tracy Claeys has at both nickel corner and at safety. Hopefully Rogers keeps his head in the playbook this summer so that by the time fall camp comes, he's ready to assume his role as a all-around defensive back.

What does the future hold at safety?

Minnesota will be adding one more safety this fall in four-star Dior Johnson and it's crazy to think that Johnson could almost redshirt this fall. Yes you read that right, Jay Sawvel's highest rated recruit ever could redshirt because of the depth Minnesota has built at the safety position. I don't think it happens, but hey, it could.

Early enrollee Jacob Huff also got acclimated this spring and looks to work into the Antonio Johnson type mold. Adding Huff, Johnson and Rogers finally gives the Gophers six scholarship safeties.

Projected depth chart:

1 - Antonio Johnson (6-0, 206) Sr.
2 - Daletavious McGhee (6-1, 207) RSo.
3 - Kunle Ayinde (6-0, 203) RSo.

1 - Damarius Travis (6-2, 208) Sr.
2 - Ace Rogers (6-1, 211) RJr.
3 - Dior Johnson (6-1, 207) Fr.

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