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Minnesota Football: Spring Position Previews - Defensive Line

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Can the Gophers rebuild in the trenches?

Minnesota v Maryland Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

With spring football practice underway at Minnesota, we’ll be breaking down each position group in the lead-up to the spring game at 1 p.m. on Saturday, April 30.

2022 Defensive Line Roster

Returning Starter(s): Thomas Rush and De’Angelo Carter
Other Returners: Logan Richter, Jalen Logan-Redding, Jah Joyner, Danny Striggow, Gage Keys, Luther McCoy, Jacob Schuster, Deven Eastern, and Austin Booker
Spring Enrollees: Darnell Jefferies, Lorenza Surgers, and Hayden Schwartz
Fall Enrollees: Kyler Baugh, Trey Bixby, and Anthony Smith

Out the Door: Boye Mafe, Esezi Otomewo, Nyles Pinckney, Micah Dew-Treadway, Val Martin, M.J. Anderson, and Rashad Cheney

Spring Defensive Line Preview

Minnesota ranked 8th nationally in run defense last year, allowing an average of 97.5 rushing yards per game, and their depth on the defensive line played a critical role in their success. But the Gophers now face the task of rebuilding in the trenches this offseason, with defensive tackles Nyles Pinckney and Micah Dew-Treadway graduating and defensive ends Boye Mafe and Esezi Otomewo pursuing careers in the NFL. Not to mention the midseason transfers of M.J. Anderson and Rashad Cheney, both of whom figured to be part of the defensive line rotation this fall.

By season’s end, Minnesota was using a three-man rotation at defensive tackle, and the only returning member of that rotation is De’Angelo Carter. He’ll be the anchor of the interior defensive line this fall, but the coaching staff will need to find him a supporting cast.

Clemson transfer Darnell Jefferies has been a solid addition, and redshirt junior Logan Richter has spent spring practice eating up blockers as the one-technique defensive tackle. But the Gophers have a number of underclassmen who present intriguing options. Redshirt sophomore Gage Keys, who has been banged up the past couple years, finally seems to be healthy. He certainly looks the part, but needs to continue improving at three-technique.

Redshirt freshman Deven Eastern has perhaps the most upside of any defensive tackle on the roster. He has the size to be a force, but needs to play below his pad level with more consistency. Jacob Schuster, another redshirt freshman defensive tackle, brings a different skillset to the table. He is more compact and better with his hands than Eastern.

At rush end, Thomas Rush is not Boye Mafe but he is more than capable of holding his own at the position. He finished last year with 31 total tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, and 5.5 sacks. Danny Striggow is his primary back-up as of right now, but redshirt freshman Austin Booker has turned a lot of heads this spring. He could have a role on obvious passing downs this fall.

Jalen Logan-Redding seems to have pulled ahead of Jah Joyner and Vanderbilt transfer Lorenza Surgers at the strongside defensive end spot. M.J. Anderson was supposed to be the heir apparent to Esezi Otomewo, but he transferred to Iowa State.