Since the Gophers appear to have a potentially dominant offense — at least on paper — the team's ultimate success will likely be determined by the defense. This has been the case each of the last two years and the team has had mixed results.
While the Gophers seem to start off the season well against non-conference opponents, they struggle against the better teams in the Big Ten. This would suggest mediocrity in the defensive personnel.
It could be more of the same this year. Mason was not overly impressed by his team's defensive performance in Minnesota's spring game. After looking good throughout the spring, the defense gave up eight runs of 15 yards or more in the team's final scrimmage.
"In any sport or any business, you tend to have knee-jerk reactions," Mason said. "You're only as good as your last outing. But I guess I would rather have a good spring defensively [in practice] and maybe a spring game that left something to be desired than the other way."
The defensive line is led by DTs Mark Losli and Anthony Montgomery. Both are solid run stuffers who need to get some support from DEs Keith Lipka and Eric Clark. Montgomery had 48 tackles and 9 tackles for loss a year ago, while Losli had 30 tackles and 4.5 behind the line of scrimmage.
LB Kyle McKenzie returns after leading the team with 79 tackles a year ago. McKenzie has good size and strength (6-1 and 235) and the talent to shed blockers and make plays. OLBs John Shevlin and Mario Reese could be assets if they can improve their consistency.
In the secondary, junior Trumaine Banks plays with speed and aggressiveness. If he can do a better job handling double moves, the Gophers should improve their pass defense. FS John Pawlieski had 70 tackles and 7 more behind the line and is a solid hitter.
With Rhys Lloyd having moved on, freshman Jason Giannini has the inside track on the PK job. He made two 40-plus yard field goals in Minnesota's spring game.
Defensive Outlook: Key To The Season?
Gopher Illustrated Top Stories
4-star Green has Minnesota RootsMinnesota’s most recent offer went to 2018 guard A.J. Green of Cedar Falls, Iowa. Green is ranked as the 87th best prospect in the country and last weekend visited Minnesota…
Gopher Illustrated9:51 AM
Know Your Enemy: Penn StatePenn State publisher Mark Brennan of FightOnState.com breaks down the Penn State Nittany Lions, the Gophers week 5 opponent.
Gopher Illustrated6:54 AM
Gopher Gridiron Radio 9.28.16Derek Burns returns to join Luke and Ryan breakdown the Gophers victory over Colorado State.
Gopher Illustrated6:29 AM
Focus on 16-17: Bakary KonateBakary Konate started at center last winter for the Gophers as a true sophomore season. Konate gained 22 minutes of experience on average. Konate is the subject of today’s focus.
Gopher IllustratedYesterday at 1:19 PM
GI GIF Rewind 2nd half: Colorado StateGopherIllustrated takes a look at Minnesota's win over Colorado State 31-24 through GIF's of the plays that mattered in the second half.
Gopher IllustratedYesterday at 7:30 AM