For those of you who might’ve missed the memo, The Daily Gopher is counting down the Top 10 players on the current football roster. TDG staff members were asked to submit their rankings based on on-field performance and those selections were used to create a composite set of rankings. We’ll be unveiling our Top 10 every couple days over the next few weeks.
Our countdown continues with defensive back Antoine Winfield, Jr. at No. 4.
Winfield had about as good a freshman season as you could ask for from a defensive back. He arrived at Minnesota as a cornerback, but was inserted at safety last year when Kunle Ayinde struggled. Winfield seized the starting spot and never let go.
As a freshman, he played in 12 games and started nine of them. Winfield finished fifth on the team in tackles with 52, in addition to three pass breakups, two recovered fumbles, and one interception returned for a touchdown. In his first career start, he recorded eight tackles and one pass breakup against Penn State. Winfield also had a huge performance against Illinois with a team-leading seven tackles, one pass breakup, and one fumble recovery.
Winfield has also made an impact on special teams. His work on the punt team against Illinois comes to mind. The video starts at 0:36, when Winfield beats everyone down the field to be in perfect position to recover the muffed punt. Later at 1:46, he takes advantage of a near perfect punt from Ryan Santoso to drill the punt returner near the goal line.
But for me, nothing beats the pick six against Maryland.
For now, he appears to be remaining at the safety position for the foreseeable future, but has played the nickel position in spring practice. Regardless of where he is on the field, Winfield is going to be an impact player for Gophers over the next three years. That much is clear.
TDG’s Top 10 Gopher Football Players:
No. 4 - Antoine Winfield, Jr.
No. 5 - Jonathan Celestin
No. 6 - Emmit Carpenter
No. 7 - Cody Poock
No. 8 - Rashad Still
No. 9 - Blake Cashman
No. 10 - Ryan Santoso
Be sure to check back on Wednesday as we reveal No. 3!