Spring Focus: Defense And More

The Gophers know where they have fallen short in the past two seasons, and coach Glen Mason is looking to do something about it.

The last two seasons have been near mirror images. In 2003 and 2004, the Gophers have been high scoring, explosive teams that have gotten off to great starts before losing to Michigan and going into freefall.

Head coach Glen Mason wants to avoid that at all costs this season. As a result, his emphasis this spring is to pick it up on the defensive end. Minnesota ranked 75th in overall defense and 109th in pass defense.

There are areas to be concerned about on the offensive side, but that is the team's major strength. QB Bryan Cupito returns with experience while Laurence Maroney is now the man at running back since Marion Barber has opted for the NFL draft. The offensive line is strong and deep.

If Minnesota is going to be a major factor in the Big Ten race the key is turning it around on the defensive end. Mason said he will be a "hands-on" coach with his defense this spring and beyond.

"I'm going to spend my time in spring over there," Mason said. "I'm not the defensive coordinator. I don't want to be the defensive coordinator. But I'm going to put more than my two cents in this spring. I really enjoyed being involved during the bowl game, and I'm going to continue that for a while."

One of the things that Mason wants to do is improve the team's tackling. "I'm going to teach it myself," Mason explained. "I may not be very good at it, but I'm going to teach it."

Mason and defensive coordinator David Lockwood need to be successful in that area, or Minnesota may have yet another "what might have been" type season.

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