Gopher Football Preview: Middle Linebacker

In 2010, the Gopher will be without the leader and star of their defense, middle linebacker, Lee Campbell. Campbell had an amazing year with the Gophers racking up 119 tackles, 11.5 tackles for a loss and an interception. Although Campbell is gone, a promising group of middle linebackers are ready to step up and prove they can compete.

Projected Starter:
Junior Gary Tinsley of Jacksonville, Florida is poised to take over the reins of the middle linebacker position for the Gophers. While Tinsley started out the season playing mostly on special teams, he found himself with more playing team during the later games. Tinsley finished the year with 21 tackles, 2.5 tackles for a loss and a sack.

The 6-foot-1, 220-pound Tinsley had his best game of the season against the Iowa Hawkeyes. In the game, Tinsley had a career best ten tackles and a sack. Tinsley showed promise last year in his limited time at linebacker. While it will be hard to fill the void of losing Lee Campbell, Gary Tinsley looks poised to become a breakout star on the defense this season.

Projected Top Reserve: One key reserve who won't get any playing time this year is Florida Gators transfer, Brendan Beal. Beal must sit out a year due to his transfer from the Gators. When Beal is finally able to play he should become a difference maker on the Gopher defense. In high school, Beal was the named USA Today High School first team Defensive All-American as well as the Gatorade Pennsylvania High School Player of the Year.

Coming out of high school, Beal was one of the top middle linebacker recruits in the country. Once he is eligible to play, Beal could easily challenge Tinsley for minutes at middle linebacker.

Incoming Freshman:
A walk-on who could someday compete for a scholarship is linebacker, Gabe Mezzenga from Totino-Grace High School. At 6-foot-4, 240 pounds, Mezzenga is built like a middle linebacker. The North Suburban Conference Defensive Player of the Year had 140 tackles, nine sacks and an interception during his senior season. With hard work, Mezzenga could easily find himself rewarded with a scholarship next season.

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