Gopher Football Preview: Safety

Anchoring the defensive backfield are senior starters Kim Royston and Kyle Theret. Minnesota will rely on these two head-hunters to ignite the defense with their physical play and provide leadership for a group of inexperienced defenders.

The one position on the Gopher defense that looked to have experienced starters was at the safety spot. This was the case until this spring when starting safety Kimuel Royston broke his leg at spring practice and senior Kyle Theret was suspended for a violation of team rules.

The best case scenario would be if Royston would be healthy enough to play some of the season and Theret would be reinstated to lead the Gophers from opening day. With this scenario in mind let's take a look at the Gopher's safeties for 2010.

Key Starter:
The first starter at the safety position will hopefully be Kyle Theret. Theret has been a solid presence in the secondary over the past two seasons for the Gophers by starting every game.

Last season Theret had 73 tackles and three interceptions last season. His nine career interceptions rank him fifth all-time in Gopher history. The Gopher secondary will be much better if Theret is cleared to play.

The Gophers will have a very young and inexperienced and will need the maturity and leadership of someone like Theret on the field.

Key Reserve:
One reserve who may see the field more than anticipated is redshirt freshman, Kenny Watkins. Watkins, a 6-foot, 187 pound speedster was one of the starters at safety during the Gophers' spring game when both Royston and Theret were unable to play. Watkins has a good build and is flat-out fast. He reportedly has been timed at a 4.4 40 yard dash.

Watkins is a smart athlete who makes good reads on the ball and on defenders. Although he does not have any experience playing at the college level, Watkins may end up getting as much playing time as he can handle.

Incoming Freshman:
One incoming safety for the Gophers is James Manuel from Warren Central High School in Indianapolis. Manuel is solid recruit who could development into a great player.

The first thing to notice about Manuel is his size. He is 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds. This size helps Manuel be a very physical player which is a must for a safety at the college level.

Manuel told Scout.com, "I'm a real physical player. I'm pretty tough and like making the hits. I bring a lot of energy to the game. I'm also tall, so I can take on the taller receivers and tight ends. I have an eye for the ball." Look for Manuel to be a star in the Gopher secondary in the future.

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