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Minnesota Football: Spring Position Preview - Defensive Line

Faces both new and familiar will look to help the Gophers take their defensive line to the next level

Quick Lane Bowl - Minnesota v Georgia Tech Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

I say, “SPRING,” you say, “POSITION PREVIEWS!”

I say, “SPRING,” you say, “POSITION PREVIEWS!”

That’s right. The hiatus is over. Football is back! Well, the spring version of football, at least. And in the weeks leading up to the Minnesota Golden Gophers’ spring game at 11 a.m. on Saturday, April 13, at TCF Bank Stadium, we’ll be breaking down each position group.

Key Departure(s): O.J. Smith, Gary Moore, and Royal Silver
Key Returner(s): Carter Coughlin, Winston DeLattiboudere, Sam Renner, Jamaal Teague, Esezi Otomewo, Boye Mafe, Tai’yon Devers, Mayan Ahanotu, and Noah Hickcox
Early Enrollee(s): Rashad Cheney, Micah Dew-Treadway, Logan Richter, and Keonte Schad

First and foremost, I am interested to see whether All-Big Ten rush end Carter Coughlin spends most of his senior season on the defensive line or at linebacker, his original position. I suspect it’ll be a mix of both. But it would be in the Gophers’ best interest for another legitimate pass rusher to emerge, and redshirt sophomore Boye Mafe seems to be a good bet after tallying a career-high six tackles against Georgia Tech in the Quick Lane Bowl. Perhaps senior Tai’yon Devers will finally realize the potential he flashed during his freshman season?

Redshirt senior defensive end Winston DeLattiboudere is a three-year starter, but his output could be best described as solid but not spectacular. I expect he’ll be pushed by redshirt sophomore Esezi Otomewo and redshirt freshman Mayan Ahanotu. And that may happen sooner rather than later, as DeLattiboudere appeared to suffer a knee injury at the second open practice of the spring and has been seen on crutches as recently as yesterday.

Defensive tackle is the position that will experience the most turnover, with Gary Moore graduating, O.J. Smith heading to the NFL, and Royal Silver retiring from football. There will be plenty of faces, both new and familiar, vying for a spot in the rotation.

This spring will present Gopher fans with their first glimpses of Notre Dame transfer Micah Dew-Treadway, JUCO defensive tackle Keonte Schad, and early enrollee true freshmen Rashad Cheney and Logan Richter. All four have figured into the six-man rotation at defensive tackle so far this spring, and I think all are capable of contributing in the fall.

Of the defensive tackles returning from last season, sophomore Jamaal Teague is best positioned to seize a starting spot after burning his redshirt to help fill in for Smith when he was out with a concussion. I would advise underestimating redshirt senior Sam Renner at your own peril. He largely flew under the radar last year, but was a key cog on the defensive line. Renner works hard and is a weight room warrior. It’s paid off in playing time. Redshirt sophomore Noah Hickcox rounds out the trio of returners have been getting the most snaps this spring.

I’ve not heard much at all about redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Malcolm Robinson or redshirt freshmen defensive ends Alex Reigelsperger and Abi Okonji. This spring should be an opportunity for them to make names for themselves.

Next: Linebacker