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Minnesota Football 2022 Preview: Looking at the Gopher defensive backs, will they be an upgrade or downgrade?

Upgrade or Downgrade, a look at the Gopher defensive backfield.

Syndication: Journal-Courier Nikos Frazier / Journal & Courier / USA TODAY NETWORK

Moving right along to the Gopher secondary.


A very strong overall defense in 2021 and the secondary was certainly a strength. In terms of yards allowed, the Gopher pass defense was 2nd in the Big Ten. Coney Durr is the one starter who departed along with nickelback Justus Harris.

Part of what really helped bolster the secondary was the emergence of true freshman Justin Walley. He stepped into the starting corner role, opposite Durr, and was outstanding filling in for the departed Benjamin St-Juste. Walley ended up with recognition from various freshmen All-American teams.

The safety combination of Tyler Nubin and Jordan Howden were in their second season of starting alongside each other. They formed one of the more reliable and talented safety duos in conference.

It was a very strong secondary. Will it be as strong in 2022?

Spring Preview - LINK

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.

This is really the one question...who replaces Durr?


Starter: Just Walley (CB), Terell Smith (CB), Ryan Stapp (N), Jorden Howden (S), Tyler Nubin (S)
Depth: Michael Dixon (N/S), Beanie Bishop (CB/N), Tyriq Watson (CB), Jalen Glaze (S), Darius Green (S), Coleman Bryson (S)

The talk of the summer camp has been the improved play of Terell Smith. Now in his final season of eligility, Smith seems to be putting things together and living up to the talent & ability he has occassionally shown throughout his career. A kid with great size, length and sprinter speed...if Smith begins to tap into those attributes with some composure and discipline with this assignments, he could have a moster year.

It was assumed that Durr would be replaced by one of the graduate transfers in Bishop or Stapp. But Smith very well may have seen the opportunity for playing time and is goign to take it. But there has been a lot of excitment for what Stapp and Bishop have brought to the program. Both have 2 years to play and should be getting plenty of time on the field as reserve corners and/or nickle.

At safey the program is going to get the third consecutive year of Howden and Nubin staring. This level of consistency is rare and should give the defense a ton of security knowing that the guys on the back end know what they are doing and will make plays.

Michael Dixon is a guy that seems to be liked by the staff. Great size and speed, Dixon has 3 years left to play and should be a fixture on this defense going forward.

After these 9 names mentioned specifically above there are a number of young players. Watson, Bryson, Green, Stephen Ortiz and Rhyland Kelley are all freshmen who may earn themselves time on the field, especially if there are injuries.

Upgrade or Downgrade?

As much as I loved Coney Durr and what he did for several seasons at corner, I’m going to call this unit an overall upgrade. I’ve always been a huge fan of Smith and I’m still drinking the kool-aid that he is going to lock down that other corner spot and be great.

At safety, I think the Gophers have a unit that is as good as any in the Big Ten.

If the defense is going to struggle this season, it won’t be because of the secondary. I very much love the starters we have at all 5 spots and I really like the depth as well.


Upgrade/Downgrade for the Gopher secondary?

This poll is closed

  • 83%
    UPGRADE: We have a lot of talent and excellent coaching here
    (201 votes)
  • 16%
    NEUTRAL: We lose Durr, we gain others...nets to roughly the same level of production
    (41 votes)
  • 0%
    DOWNGRADE: No way we get good secondary play 2 (3?) years in a row
    (0 votes)
242 votes total Vote Now