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Minnesota Football: Spring Position Previews - Safety

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Growing from failing is on the docket this offseason for the safeties

Iowa v Minnesota Photo by Hannah Foslien/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 Safety Roster

Returning Starter(s): Jordan Howden and Tyler Nubin
Other Returners: Michael Dixon, Calvin Swenson, and Abner Dubar
Spring Enrollee(s): None
Fall Enrollee(s): Darius Green

2020 Season In Review

It turns out that replacing Antoine Winfield Jr. is easier said than done. Winfield wasted no time proving his worth in the NFL, becoming a rookie starter for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers en route to a Super Bowl championship. Back at Minnesota, Jordan Howden found life without Winfield to be rough, and sophomore Tyler Nubin struggled to fill his predecessor’s shoes.

Nubin and Howden did finish No. 2 and 3, respectively, on the team in tackles, but that was largely a product of an ineffective front seven that allowed opposing rushers safe passage through the first and second levels of the defense. Defensive coordinator Joe Rossi has stressed the need for defenders to know their assignments and play fast, but that was a challenge for both Howden and Nubin at times. Blown assignments, bad reads, and poor angles to the ball were aplenty.

Freshman Michael Dixon came on strong late last season, figuring into the rotation at safety in three of their last four games. But he is out this spring with an undisclosed injury. So there won’t be much competition for Howden and Nubin, unfortunately, aside from sixth-year senior walk-on Calvin Swenson and freshman Abner Dubar, who did not play last year.

Spring Watch List

  1. Grow from failing. Jordan Howden and Tyler Nubin are not lost causes. Both know their potential. Now is the time to put last season’s struggles behind them and move forward. Nubin is young and will learn from last year’s game experience. Howden needs to get his head right and be more of a leader in the secondary. I wish the Gophers had more bodies at safety to push them this spring, but for now we’ll have to simply rely on safeties coach Joe Harasymiak to shepherd their growth this offseason. The defense needs them to be better.