Disclaimer: The players noted below are not including summer enrollee freshman, as this is just who will be participating in spring practice for Minnesota.
Defensive end: Hank Ekpe (Sr.) - J. Kafo (RSoph.)
Defensive tackle: Steven Richardson (Jr.) - Gary Moore (RSoph.) / Andrew Stelter (Jr.)
Defensive tackle: Merrick Jackson (Jr.) - Scott Ekpe (Sr.)
Defensive end: Gaelin Elmore (Jr.) - Winston DeLattiboudere (RFr.)
Explanation: The defensive end spots may have the most question marks about them than any other position on the defense. Hank Ekpe played a lot of snaps alongside Theiren Cockran last season and only ended up with 11 total tackles after what was a very promising spring and fall camp. Gaelin Elmore, Julian Kafo, Winston DeLattiboudere and new DE Jerry Gibson will all have their opportunity to get snaps at DE this spring and fall. On the flip side, I feel pretty good about the depth Minnesota has at defensive tackle right now. Between Richardson, Jackson, Ekpe, Stelter, Moore and Timms, they have some bodies there to compete in the Big Ten.
Outside linebacker: Jack Lynn (RSr.) - Julian Huff (Soph.)
Middle linebacker: Cody Poock (RJr.) - Everett Williams (Jr.)
Outside linebacker: Jonathan Celestin (Jr.) - Nick Rallis (RSr.)
Explanation: You'll notice a lot of upperclassmen in the two-deep and they may also be one of the deepest position groups on the team. You also have to add in Blake Cashman into this group who played on a lot of special teams for Minnesota last fall. Between Poock, Lynn and Celestin, this may be the best overall starting group of linebackers that Minnesota has had in the Claeys era, which is going to fun to watch this spring.
Cornerback: Jalen Myrick (Sr.) - Ray Buford (RFr.)
Safety: Damarius Travis (RSr.) - Kunle Ayinde (RJr.)
Safety: Ace Rogers (RSr.) or Duke McGhee (RJr.) / Dior Johnson (RFr.)
Cornerback: KiAnte Hardin (Soph.) - Antonio Shenault (Soph.)
Explanation: Where Minnesota may lack bodies at corner this spring with only four guys there (three more coming this summer), they have no shortage of talent at the safety position. I'm pretty confident that the Gophers corners will be Myrick and Hardin come Oregon State, along with Damarius Travis roaming the middle at safety, but the other safety spot is going to be one to watch. Rogers is returning from a major knee injury, McGhee played well toward the end of the season, Ayinde started in Travis' position for weeks and Johnson is a physical freak ready to take the next step in Sawvel's secondary. Should be a good group to follow throughout the course of the spring, but it looks to likely be Ace Rogers or Duke McGhee.