There has been a lot of speculation that Minnesota will roll out the 3-4 defense quite a bit this year. Will it be for specific situations or will it be just to give opposing offensive coordinators and quarterbacks a different looks and force them to spend extra time in the film room and on the practice field to prepare. Whatever the reason, if the Gophers go with a 3-4 look on a part-time or full-time basis the play of sophomore linebacker Julian Huff will be of much importance.
As a true freshman in 2015 Huff saw significant action and appeared to be the guy Tracy Claeys called on when he wanted to bring extra pressure in passing situations. Huff didn’t respond with huge numbers but did show the potential to have the knack to make a big play. Did someone say big play? That is exactly what Claeys and new Gopher defensive coordinator Jay Sawvel want from their defense.
Huff played in all 13 games during his rookie season last year, making one start in the opener against nationally ranked TCU at TCF Bank Stadium. As a true freshman, Huff finished with 22 tackles, which included 2.5 sacks, a pass breakup and a fumble recovery.
The key for Huff and his importance to the Minnesota defense will fall in whether or not he can develop into a linebacker who can stay on the field for several situations. Last year Huff was used primarily in third downs or in obvious passing situations as the pass rush specialist. For Huff to validate this level of importance he will either have to become a linebacker that can be on the field for all downs and all situations, or become such an impressive specialist that he will need two hands to count his sack total.
I like Julian Huff and the skill set he brings to the table for Sawvel and the Gophers defense. I am not sure the roster is accurate when they list him at 6-0 and 220 pounds but the kid loves the game of football, has heart and will clearly give you everything he has when he is one the field. Huff’s numbers will clearly go up in 2016 if he is on the field on a consistent basis, but my challenge for Huff is to make more big plays. I look for Huff to come up with at least six sacks, five tackles for loss and help create three turnovers in 2016.
Top 15 MIG Countdown
15. Isaiah Gentry
14. Cody Poock
13. Julian Huff