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Minnesota Football: Spring Position Previews - Defensive Tackle

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The Gophers bring back a wealth of experience at defensive tackle

Minnesota v Maryland Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

With spring football practice at Minnesota under way after kicking off on Monday, March 29, we are breaking down each position group leading up to the spring game on Saturday, May 1.

2021 Defensive Tackle Roster

Returning Starter(s): Micah Dew-Treadway, Keonte Schad, and DeAngelo Carter
Other Returners: Rashad Cheney and Logan Richter
Spring Enrollee(s): Deven Eastern, Nyles Pinckney, and Val Martin
Fall Enrollee(s): Luther McCoy and Jacob Schuster

2020 Season In Review

Disruptive is not a word I would have used to describe the Gophers’ defensive tackles in the early goings of last season. The Minnesota defense finished the year ranked 102nd nationally in rushing defense, allowing 207.1 rushing yards per game, and the defensive tackles played a part in that. They were getting beat at the line of the scrimmage and struggled to shed blocks, which put pressure on a woefully inexperienced linebacker corps to make plays at the second level.

But this is a position group that showed signs of improvement in the latter half of the season, even with Keonte Schad missing three games and Micah Dew-Treadway missing one. One of the reasons I’m optimistic about this unit is because of the play of a pair of redshirt freshmen: DeAngelo Carter and Rashad Cheney. Both took their lumps, but Carter led all defensive tackles with 16 total tackles, 1.5 sacks, one pass breakup, one quarterback hurry, and one fumble recovery. And who can forget his interception (and stiff arm) against Maryland:

Carter and Cheney have only scratched the surface of their potential, and both Schad and Dew-Treadway have opted to return and give Minnesota a pair of veteran defensive tackles.

With the additions of Clemson transfer Nyles Pinckney and NC State transfer Val Martin, the Gophers are likely to utilize a six-man rotation at defensive tackle next season. Pinckney played in 55 games and started 13 of them over four seasons with the Tigers and recorded three tackles in their College Football Playoff semifinal loss to Ohio State in January. Martin’s resume is more pedestrian, recording 29 tackles and one forced tumble in three seasons with the Wolfpack.

Fleck has a high batting average when it comes to castoffs from other Power 5 programs, from Alabama defensive tackle O.J. Smith to Florida cornerback Chris Williamson, so I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that Pinckney and Martin will be impact players.

Logan Richter and early enrollee Deven Eastern would seem to be the odd men out this spring, but that’s okay. Having six defensive tackles who are each good enough to start or at the very least earn meaningful snaps is a good problem to have.

Spring Watch List

  1. Meet the new guys. Nyles Pinckney and Val Martin both look the part. Pinckney is 6’1” and 290 lbs. and Martin is 6’1” and 300 lbs. But how do they look on the field? I’m excited to see what both defensive tackles can do as part of the six-man rotation.
  2. Taking the next step. Having two redshirt freshmen defensive tackles seeing significant snaps is often a recipe for disaster, and at times that was the case for DeAngelo Carter and Rashad Cheney last season. But both seemed to have settled in by season’s end and that playing time is going to pay dividends moving forward. I’ll be interested to see how defensive line coach Chad Wilt continues to mold them into Big Ten defensive tackles.