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Minnesota Football Recruiting: The Defensive Commits on National Signing Day 2016

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A quick look at every Gopher who could make an impact on the defensive game plan.

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

The strength of the Gophers over the past couple seasons has clearly been the defense. The major areas of need this year were along the defensive line.  There was a key JUCO pickup at DT but overall this was a disappointing recruiting class when it comes to defensive line. The class was definitely hurt when it became clear that JoJo Garcia wasn't going to qualify academically. Clearly this will be a huge area of focus for the 2017 class. But with that said, this was a very strong class at LB and DB.  There is a lot of depth in the secondary after last year's class and this one.

If you are looking for a theme here, it is long, athletic and fast.  You will find that throughout the names listed below. Lets meet the latest crop of defenders who will be continuing the Gopher tradition of strong defenses.

OLB - Carter Coughlin

VITALS
Position: OLB
Home: Eden Prairie
Height: 6-4
Weight: 220
40-time: 4.53

Scroll of the SwornCommitted March 12

RANKINGS
Rivals
ESPN
Scout

Other P5 Offers: Ohio State, Oregon, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Pitt

Videos:

NOTES:

Coughlin was the first to really get things going and he continued to lead this Empire Class.  Athletic kid who is expected to play OLB in Jay Sawvel's defense, but don't be surprised to see him as an edge rusher much like Julian Huff this past season.  But Coughlin is 5 inches taller and comes to the program roughly the same weight Huff is now.

I would expect to see Coughlin contributing immediately.  His athleticism is undeniable and I assume that he will earn himself a spot in the rotation.

MLB - Thomas Barber

VITALS
Position: MLB
Home: New Hope
Height: 6-1
Weight: 225
40-time: not very fast

Scroll of the SwornCommitted on March 13

RANKINGS
- Rivals:
- ESPN:
- Scout

Other P5 Offers: none

Videos:

NOTES:

No real offers from any D1 schools but that is largely because his commitment to Minnesota was never really in question.  Also worth noting that he may just be a slower developer than other high school seniors.  Much like Marion Barber III was and Thomas Barber was.

This particular Barber will come to the Gophers as a hard-hitting linebacker.  He is already signed, on campus and getting ready for Spring Practice rather than Prom.  Getting the extra few months is nice but do not expect to see Barber on the field this fall, he is a prime redshirt candidate.

DE/OLB/TE - Kamal Martin

VITALS
Position: really nobody knows, I'm guessing defense
Home: Burnsville, MN
Height: 6-3
Weight: 230
40-time: 4.8

Scroll of the SwornCommitted July 27

RANKINGS
- Rivals:
- ESPN:
- Scout

Other P5 Offers: None. Other offers from Eastern Michigan

Videos:

NOTES:

Big and athletic and no clear position home at the next level.  Martin had a few smaller scholarship offers to play QB and had committed to Easter Michigan.  But the Gophers will play him elsewhere and thought he was talented enough to warrant a scholarship.  I listed him with the defensive recruits thinking he will either be a DE or end up at OLB. But there is probably just as good a chance he moves to be an athletic and dangerous H-back on offense (Imagine what we dreamed of Anyanwu before injuries).  Considering the need at DL and his skill set to be an athletic OLB, I'm projecting this side of the ball for Martin.

I'd be a little surprised to see him on the field this Fall but I do anticipate he has the tools to be an impact player if he finds the right fit and stays healthy. The staff reportedly is very excited about Martin and his abilities so maybe he finds a way on to the field this Fall.

DE - TaMarion Johnson

VITALS
Position: DE
Home: Southfield, MI
Height: 6-5
Weight: 205
40-time:

Scroll of the Swornnone...sorry

RANKINGS
- Rivals:
- ESPN: -
- Scout

Other P5 Offers: Purdue, Iowa St, Miami (OH)

Videos:

NOTES:

Johnson was a Miami (OH) commit and reopened his recruitment recently.  Minnesota had been in on the kid for a while, received a visit and Johnson ultimately picked the Gophers over Purdue.  Defensive line was a huge area of need and the Gophers picked up a long and athletic prospect...it is kind of what they do.  Do not expect to see him play this Fall.

DE - Tai'Yon Devers

VITALS
Position: DE
Home: Atlanta, GA
Height: 6-4 
Weight: 215
40-time: I don't know

Scroll of the SwornCommitted December 11

RANKINGS
- Rivals:
- ESPN:
- Scout:

Other P5 Offers: None, offer from Central Florida

Videos:

NOTES:

A true project here Devers will take some time to develop and grow.  He is fairly new to football and decided to play Prep school football this past season.  A quick first step but he really needs to add some strength. He is an early enrollee and on campus currently but do not expect to see him on the field this Fall.

DT - Merrick Jackson

VITALS
Position: DT
Home: Belleville, IL
Height: 6-2
Weight: 305
40-time: he's over 300 lbs

Scroll of the SwornCommitted Dec 9

RANKINGS
- Rivals:
- ESPN:
- Scout

Other P5 Offers: Baylor, Oklahoma St., Iowa St. Illinois, Southern Miss

Videos:

NOTES:

1st Team All-American.  Jackson is on campus, will participate in Spring Practices and I fully expect he will be an integral member of the rotation at DT.  This was a much needed pick-up in this recruiting cycle.  Big boy, productive at the JUCO level and position of need.

CB - Kiondre Thomas

VITALS
Position: CB
Home: Fort Smith, Arkansas
Height: 6-0
Weight: 170
40-time: 4.46

Scroll of the SwornCommitted November 13

RANKINGS
- Rivals:
- ESPN:
- Scout

Other P5 Offers: Mississippi State, Tulsa, other small schools

Videos: Junior Season

NOTES:

Thomas was the first recruit to commit after Tracy Claeys was announced as the Gopher's head football coach. Thomas is a light-weight but long and fast corner.  Expect some time to bulk up before being allowed to shut-down Big Ten receivers.  Appears to be much more ready to cover with very good ball skills, needs to add strength and become a better run supporter.

I'd love for him to have a year to grow, but we always seem to play DBs early.  If he's good enough...he'll play.

CB - Coney Durr

VITALS
Position: CB
Home: Dutchtown, LA
Height: 5-10
Weight: 180
40-time: 4.6

Scroll of the SwornCommitted December 12

RANKINGS
- Rivals:
- ESPN:
- Scout

Other P5 Offers: North Carolina, Virginia Tech, Kansas St, Purdue, Wake Forest, others

Videos:

NOTES:

A very hot commodity over the last several weeks.  Durr took a recent visit to North Carolina but ultimately was not ready to give them a final answer and they moved on.  Took a visit to Virginia Tech last weekend and enjoyed the visit.  Ultimately admitting he liked the football side of things better with the Hokies but the academics of Minnesota won out.  The staff is very excited about Durr and he, like Kiondre above, could very well earn playing time this Fall.

CB - Antoine Winfield Jr.

VITALS
Position: CB
Home: The Woodlands, TX
Height: 5-9
Weight: 183
40-time: 4.4

Scroll of the SwornCommitted December 13

RANKINGS
- Rivals:
- ESPN:
- Scout

Other P5 Offers: Northwestern, Purdue, SMU, Missouri, others

Videos:

NOTES:

Undersized but tough, smart and fast...kind of like his father.  I hope the comparisons end soon and Jr is allowed tobe his own player but I love the prospect of Jr as a Gopher.  Seems less likely to play as a freshman but you never know.

Preferred Walk-Ons

  • Brady Wielad - DB - Wisconsin kid
  • Calvin Swenson - DB - Wisconsin kid
  • John Mack - K - Wisconsin kid