Fantastic Four: Defense

The Gopher offense will needed to show growth and maturity as they face these four defensive stars.

The 2010 Gopher schedule is loaded with talented defensive stars. Four individual opponents are sure to keep the Gopher offense working overtime in preparation for these tough games.

1. Greg Jones
Possibly the best player the Gophers offense will have to face is linebacker, Greg Jones of Michigan State. The reigning Defensive Player of the Year in the Big Ten is an absolute terror. Last season, the First-Team All-American posted 154 tackles and nine sacks. Jones is a big, fast defender who has a true knack for disrupting offenses. His nine sacks are a testament to his utilization of speed and strength to pressure the quarterback. Last season against the Gophers, Jones had 12 tackles and a sack in a loss at TCF Bank Stadium. As the Gophers travel to East Lansing this fall they better be prepared for another big game from one of the nation's top linebackers.

2. Adrian Clayborn
The defensively strong Big Ten has plenty of talented athletes to keep offensive coordinators awake at night. One such player is Adrian Clayborn of the Iowa Hawkeyes. Clayborn had 70 tackles, 20 for a loss, 11.5 sacks and a forced fumble to lead the Hawkeyes to a 2009 BCS bowl victory. Clayborn is a speedy, athletic end who uses his athleticism to effortlessly penetrate offensive lines. The first team All-Big Ten selection showed great improvement between 2008 and 2009. If Clayborn can continue to improve this offseason he could easily be one of the best ends in the country. The Gophers will no doubt have their hands full in trying to contain Clayborn.

3. Ryan Kerrigan
Another impact defensive end that the Gophers must face is defensive end Ryan Kerrigan of the Purdue Boilermakers. The 6-4, 263 pound Kerrigan had a great 2009 season with 66 tackles, 12 sacks and two forced fumbles. Kerrigan's 12 sacks topped the Big Ten and put him fourth in the FBS, tied with the likes of first-round draft picks, Ndamukong Suh and Derrick Morgan. On the Gophers' 2009 homecoming at TCF Bank Stadium, Kerrigan had a solid game compiling six tackles to go along with two sacks. Kerrigan will no doubt pick up where left off from last season. Being that the rest of the Boilermaker defense is mediocre at best, expect the Gophers to key on Kerrigan in hopes of stifling his play making ability.

4. Jurrell Casey
Although the average college football fan may not have heard of Jurrell Casey, this year could drastically change that. Casey, a 6-foot-1, 305-pound defensive tackle from Southern Cal had a great season in 2009 for the Trojans where he had 59 tackles, 4.5 sacks, three fumble recoveries, and two forced fumbles. Casey's efforts earned him Sophomore All-American second team as well as All-Pac-10 honorable mention. Casey is a big body that the Gophers will need to double team if they want to try and get the ground game started against the Trojans in early September.

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