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Minnesota Football: Defensive coordinator Joe Rossi leaving for Michigan State

A major shake-up on the Gophers’ coaching staff

University of Minnesota

The Minnesota Golden Gophers will have a new defensive play-caller next season for the first time since 2018.

ESPN's Pete Thamel is reporting that defensive coordinator Joe Rossi is expected to take the same position at Michigan State under new head coach Jonathan Smith.

This is obviously a huge loss for the Gophers. Rossi was first promoted to interim defensive coordinator during the 2018 season after the midseason firing of his predecessor, Robb Smith. The turnaround he orchestrated over the final four games of that season secured him the permanent position, which he has held for the last five years.

Even though Minnesota took a step back this season defensively, Rossi has maintained a reputation as one of the most underrated defensive coordinators in the country.

In his first full season as defensive coordinator, Rossi led a defense that ranked 10th nationally in total defense (306.6 yards allowed per game) and ninth in passing defense (184.2 passing yards allowed per game) as the Gophers went on to win 11 games for the first time in program history since 1904. Two years later, the Gopher defense ranked in the Top 10 in total defense, rushing defense, passing defense, and scoring defense in 2021. The following season, Rossi oversaw a defense that ranked eighth in total defense (294.7 yards allowed per game) and fourth in scoring defense (13.8 points allowed per game).

Head coach P.J. Fleck has his work cut out for him in finding a replacement.