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Minnesota Football 2018 Preview: Defensive End Upgrade/Downgrade

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Returning everyone and adding some additional talent, is this unit an upgrade?

Illinois v Minnesota Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Moving right along to defensive end. This area was a glaring defensive weakness a year ago, will it be any better in 2018?

WHO IS GONE

The good news is that nobody at defensive end graduated.

WHO RETURNS

Carter Coughlin, Winston DeLattiboudere and Nate Umlor combined to start at defensive end in all 12 games last year.

Coughlin, as a sophomore, was the most productive of the trio leading the team in both TFLs and sacks with 11.5 and 6.5 respectively. The Eden Prairie native is not only one of the leaders on this defense but also is one of the guys who could breakout as a junior into one of best defensive ends in the conference. Is that preseason enthusiasm? Perhaps, but Coughlin is a rare talent and certainly a guy who is critical to the success of this defense.

Behind Coughlin at the rush end is likely the dynamic Tai’yon Devers. Devers broke out as a true freshmen as a pass rusher who was incredibly fast off the line. He struggled a sophomore but looks to rebound in 2018. Also keep an eye out for Boye Mafe at rush end after redshirting in 2017.

Starting opposite Coughlin will likely be DeLattibourdere. As a junior, DeLattibourdere is still one of the elder statesmen at End. He finished 2017 with 2 sacks, 3.5 TFLs and 13 tackles. He will likely be the starter with redshirt freshman Esezi Otomewo pushing him for playing time early and often. Otomewo was often praised for his work while redshirt last year and this spring.

Nate Umlor will still be a part of the rotation with his 6’5”, 285 lb frame and with some experience under his belt from 2017.

WHO IS ADDED

Alex Reigelsperger was a highly recruited end and one Gopher fans should be excited about. As a true freshman, with several players returning ahead of him, he may struggle to see the field more than the allotted 4 games while still retaining his redshirt status.

Also incoming is Abi N-Okonji and Mayan Ahanotu. Both freshman are expected to redshirt, possibly playing in certain spots to gain some experience.

UPGRADE/DOWNGRADE

Well, this one seems pretty easy. I think it is going to be an upgrade all around. I expect big things out of Coughlin this year. I think you’ll get improvements from the likes of DeLattibourdere and Devers. But the biggest boost to this unit is going to be the additions of Mafe and Otomewo after their redshirt years.

I’m not declaring this unit be amazing, but it will be improved. This unit will be deeper and will be led by one who may become one of the league’s best.