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Minnesota Football: Spring Position Previews - Defensive Back

Can the Gophers mitigate the loss of veteran cornerback Coney Durr?

Wisconsin v Minnesota Photo by David Berding/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 Back Roster

Returning Starter(s): Jordan Howden, Tyler Nubin, and Justin Walley
Other Returners: Terell Smith, Michael Dixon, Solomon Brown, Jalen Glaze, Miles Fleming, Victor Pless, Steven Ortiz, and Darius Green
Spring Enrollees: Ryan Stapp, Beanie Bishop, Rhyland Kelly, Tariq Watson, and Coleman Bryson
Fall Enrollees: Aidan Gousby

Out the Door: Coney Durr, Justus Harris, and Phillip Howard

Spring Defensive Back Preview

Even with Coney Durr walking out the door after starting 43 games for Minnesota over the course of his career, the secondary figures to be the strength of the Gophers’ defense this fall.

Justin Walley has one starting cornerback spot under wraps after a solid true freshman season that saw him record 29 tackles, seven pass break-ups, one interception, one forced fumble, and two fumble recoveries. Opposite him you can expect to see Abilene Christian transfer cornerback Ryan Stapp, who has quietly had an impressive spring. In practices open to the public, he has shown good skills in coverage and also held his own against the run.

It will be interesting to see who emerges behind Walley and Stapp. Terell Smith has been at practice this spring but has been a non-participant for unspecified reasons. He entered last season as the starter before ceding playing time to Walley. With Smith unavailable, redshirt sophomores Miles Fleming and Victor Pless have been getting the second-string snaps.

At slot corner, Justus Harris was a stalwart presence for two years. Now the favorite to replace him as the starter is Western Kentucky transfer Beanie Bishop. The former All-Conference USA performer started 13 games at nickel back for the Hilltoppers last season, finishing with 43 total tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, four pass break-ups, three interceptions, and one forced fumble. His chief competition at the position is redshirt junior Solomon Brown.

The safety position is set with both Jordan Howden and Tyler Nubin back. Behind them you’ll find redshirt sophomore Jalen Glaze and redshirt freshman Darius Green, but the name to watch is Michael Dixon. If spring practice is any indication, the coaching staff feels Dixon is too good to keep off the field, even with Howden and Nubin entrenched as starters. So he has been lining up all over the field this spring, at linebacker, slot corner, and safety.