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Minnesota Football: Spring Position Previews - Linebacker

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Can the Gophers replace the production and leadership of Jack Gibbens?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 20 Minnesota at Indiana Photo by James Black/Icon Sportswire via 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 Linebacker Roster

Returning Starter(s): Mariano Sori-Marin
Other Returners: Braelen Oliver, Donald Willis, Cody Lindenberg, Josh Aune, Lucas Finnessy, and Devon Williams
Spring Enrollees: Maverick Baranowski
Fall Enrollees: Joey Gerlach

Out the Door: Jack Gibbens, James Gordon, and Jaqwondis Burns

Spring Linebacker Preview

I can’t say enough about the addition of Jack Gibbens last season. The former Abilene Christian transfer not only led the team in total tackles (92), but his presence also helped Mariano Sori-Marin settle in and eliminate the mental mistakes that plagued him during a 2020 season that saw him struggle often because he couldn’t get out of his own head.

Gibbens is gone now, but Sori-Marin opted to use his extra year of eligibility and return to lead the Gophers’ linebacker corps. When the Gophers field their 4-2-5 defense this fall, you can expect to see Sori-Marin at mike linebacker and Braelen Oliver at the will linebacker position. Oliver returned to action last year after missing all of 2020 with a knee injury and he looked at times like he was still shaking off the rust. But he looks to be back to 100% this spring.

Cody Lindenberg is back healthy this spring after missing most of last season due to injury. Defensive coordinator Joe Rossi has been very high on Lindenberg since he stepped on campus, and he is getting work behind Oliver this spring. Redshirt sophomore Lucas Finnessy has earned second-string snaps behind Sori-Marin at mike linebacker.

When the Minnesota needs three linebackers, Donald Willis is likely to get the first call at sam linebacker. He saw the fourth-most snaps of any linebacker last season and figures to have a more significant role this fall. Playing behind him this spring is Josh Aune.