Well, the offense was pretty easy. Basically everyone returns except the left tackle. Defense is a little different in that there are a few holes that need to be filled. I’ll get started at defensive end, choosing to split this one out from defensive tackle as those position groups have very different outlooks currently.
Starter: Carter Coughlin & Winston DeLattiboudere
Depth: Esezi Otomewo, Boye Mafe, Ta’yon Devers,
Defensive End was a pretty big concern heading into 2018 and it turned out to be just fine. The names above accounted for 12 sacks last year and really were a solid unit but it was Carter Coughlin who really made an impact. The Eden Prairie native is a tremendous play-maker who accounted for 9.5 sacks and 15 tackles for loss as a junior. Both were top 10 in the Big Ten last season.
DeLattiboudere started on the opposide side for 12 games and was solid with 4.5 TFLs and 1 sack. Otomewo, Mafe and Devers all played significant minutes but none really stood out as having rough stretches or dominating the line of scrimmage. Overall it was a solid season for the defensive ends in 2018.
Starter: Carter Coughlin & Winston DeLattiboudere & Ta’yon Devers,
Depth: Esezi Otomewo, Boye Mafe
Freshmen: MJ Anderson, D’Vion Harris, Abi N-Okonji (rFR)
I listed three starters at DE for 2019 mostly because Devers has really had a nice fall camp to get himself into the mix starting. And secondly, Coughlin is going to be used all over the field depending on situations and specific matchups. But once again, this unit is all about Coughlin. At one point there could have been a discussion about who was the most important player on the defense, but that is no longer a discussion. Coughlin has elevated himself to be an early round NFL draft pick and one of the best defensive players in the Big Ten.
What is needed in 2019 is more help from everyone else. Reports out of camp are that Devers has really improved. Since the senior stepped on campus, he has shown the ability to speed rush effectively, but if the rest of his game has come along then he really could be a dangerous end. DeLattibourdere is also a senior and has been bit of the opposite kind of player as Devers. He is solid against the run and in pass rush but never really dominating. His steady play is valuable and slight improvement will be a big help overall.
Mafe and Otomewo are younger guys who have now had a couple years in the program, this is a year where they should start to put things together. How great would it be for these guys to take big steps forward and give hope that when we are doing this again in 2020 we aren’t concerned about losing the three seniors because we know they are also very good. But this has yet to be demonstrated.
I’d be surprised if we see the redshirt freshmen contribute much this year and the true freshmen may get spot time while maintaining their redshirt season.
Upgrade / Downgrade
Is this unit an upgrade? Personally I think you’ll see an outstanding season from Coughlin where he makes an impact in games throughout the season and he will end up being on the first team All Big Ten. Then we just need to see a little improvement from the other four names expected to contribute.
On paper I’d call this one neutral but I have some optimism that this unit is going to be improved and you will see an uptick in production from Devers & DeLattiboudere. Mostly I’m just excited to watch Coughlin become a Big Ten household name.
Upgrade or Downgrade at defensive end?
This poll is closed
Upgrade - Carter Coughlin for class president
Neutral - it is OK to be solid and reliable
Downgrade - Still no pressure on the QB?