With new head coach P.J. Fleck’s first spring practice in the books and now four months until the season opener against Buffalo, we can put all talk of Gopher football to bed, right?
To help fill that gaping hole in your heart where a maroon and gold football typically resides, we’ve decided to rank the 10 best players on the current roster.
Who doesn’t love a Top 10, right?
Criteria: The Daily Gopher staff members were asked to rank the 10 best players on the current roster based on on-field performance. Members were told not to use perceived “potential” as a determining factor in their rankings, and no favor was placed upon players at a “position of need” for this upcoming season. Staff members were allowed to weigh a player’s years of service when determining their rankings, but if they felt a freshman had played better in one season than a senior had in three, they were encouraged to rank that underclassman ahead of an upperclassman. Once everyone had submitted their Top 10, each players’ points total (No. 1 was worth 10 points, No. 2 worth 9 points, etc.) was tallied and the final TDG Top 10 was determined.
Counting down from No. 10 to No. 1, we’ll be unveiling a new player ranking every couple days, for dramatic effect. To start, we’ll reveal those who received votes, but not enough to rank in the final TDG Top 10:
Brandon Lingen. The tight end, who will be a senior this fall, was poised for a breakout year after recording 33 receptions for 428 yards and three touchdowns as a sophomore. But his junior season was reduced to three games due to a multitude of injuries. We’ll see if Lingen can stay healthy this fall and finish his Gopher career with a strong senior season.
Kamal Martin. As a true freshman linebacker, he played in all 13 games last season and finished the year with 10 tackles, one fumble recovery, and an acrobatic interception against Iowa. With other linebackers sidelined for spring practice, Martin saw reps with the first-string defense and is expected to be a key contributor — if not an outright starter — for the Gopher defense over these next three seasons.
Carter Coughlin. Coughlin is another linebacker who didn’t take long to make an impact on the field. As a true freshman, he played in 11 games last season and recorded 25 tackles, four tackles for loss, and two sacks. Moving forward, Coughlin will be utilized in the “R” position for the most part — where he’ll often be positioned as an edge rusher up on the line of scrimmage — and I think a lot of Gopher fans are excited to see what he can do with an increased role.
Duke McGhee. McGhee has been a key cog on defense the last three seasons, and is the favorite to replace Damarius Travis at safety this fall. The senior safety has played in 34 games and totaled 101 tackles, five pass breakups, and one interception during that stretch. If he can avoid further targeting penalties — which is a legitimate concern after three ejections last season — McGhee can help lead a young defensive backfield as a senior.
Tyler Johnson. The wide receiver had a promising start to his career with 14 receptions, 141 receiving yards, and one touchdown as a freshman. Although he faded down the stretch last season -- he recorded one catch over the team’s final five games — Johnson is expected to be a key target in the passing game this fall.
One last thing I want to get out of the way before we move forward: You’re going to disagree. I’d be surprised (and somewhat disappointed) if everyone was in total agreement. This Top 10 was formulated from the subjective rankings of staff members here at TDG. It’s by no means definitive. The selections are certainly up for debate — and commenters are more than welcome to share their own. This is a trivial exercise for the purpose of discussion and debate, and I look forward to hearing everyone’s thoughts and opinions.
Check back Wednesday for the reveal of No. 10!