clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Minnesota Gopher Football 2023 Preview: Upgrade or Downgrade for the Defensive Line

Will the Gopher defensive line be an upgrade this year?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 15 Minnesota at Illinois Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The 2021 Gopher defensive line was very good and the 2022 unit was offering plenty of hope to be solid again. This never really materialized and the unit struggled under first year coach, Brick Haley. A few key names are gone, along with Haley, and the 2023 unit is once again filled with promise.

But good ol’ #46 is returning to coach the Gopher defensive line and there is a lot of excitement over this defensive staff hire for the Gophers. Winston DeLattiboudere is back on the Huntington Bank Stadium sidelines after playing 51 games for the U, getting experience as a graduate assistant at Oregon and 1 season as Akron’s defensive line coach. His impact has reportedly been pretty significant, will it translate on to the field?


Starter: Thomas Rush (DE), Jalen Logan-Redding (DE), Trill Carter (DT), Kyler Baugh (DT)
Depth: Jah Joyner, Danny Striggow, Deven Eastern, Logan Richter, Gage Keys, Austin Booker, Darnell Jefferies

A lot of names were part of the rotation last year and so many of them are no longer with the program. There was a ton of promise and hope that one or two of the names above were primed for a breakout season. Perhaps it was going to be Rush or Carter or maybe even Joyner?

Thomas Rush was poised to have a further breakout season in 2022 after having a really nice 2021, but it never fully materialized. He was solid but was not really able consistently apply pressure on the opposing quarterback from the rush end position. He finished with just 1.5 sacks, starting all 13 games. Striggow primarily played behind him and missed a few games to injury.

Strong-side was Joyner and Logan-Redding splitting time with Logan-Redding starting. Both finished with fewer than 20 tackles and combined for 2.5 sacks on the season in what was the first full season of playing for both of them.

On the interior Kyler Baugh became a very good run-stopper, starting all 13 games after transferring in from Houston Baptist. And alongside him was Trill Carter who also started all 13 games in what was his third season of being a part of the rotation.

Eastern, Jefferies and Richter all earned playing time along the interior of the defensive line.

Gage Keys and Austin Booker are guys who also saw action last season but both have transferred.

Overall this was a group that was very good against the run but struggled to get consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks. The Gopher defense was 5th in the Big Ten in rushing yards allowed, but 13th in sacks.


Starter: Jah Joyner/Jalen Logan-Redding (DE), Danny Striggow (DE), Deven Eastern (DT), Kyler Baugh (DT)
Depth: Chris Collins, Logan Richter, Darnell Jefferies

It is a very safe bet to assume that Logan-Redding will once again start on the strong-side with Joyner getting significant time. These two will both be redshirt sophomores in terms of eligibility, but this will be their 4th season in the program. The front-seven should benefit from these guys having the experience they do and strong-side should be a position we don’t have to worry about, regardless of who is in.

Danny Striggow mostly split time with Rush at the rush end position and led the team in sacks with 3.5. He will be the starter this year and is the next in line to potentially have a breakout year for the Gopher defense.

Behind Striggow and potentially pushing him to start will be Chris Collins. A graduate transfer from North Carolina who will have just this season in a Gopher uniform. He will be a regular in the rotation.

The interior should be mostly familiar. Trill Carter is gone, but Baugh will be starting again and he’ll line up next to either Eastern or Richter. All three of these guys are experienced. I think we have a good idea of what we can expect from Baugh and Richter, but Eastern has the size ability to be more of an impact player. Jefferies is expected to be in the regular rotation as well to round out the 4 interior guys you’ll see most often.

Deeper rotation guys may include redshirt freshmen Anthony Smith and Hayden Schwartz. Smith was one of the highest-rated members of the 2022 class and should start getting the opportunity to work their way into playing time and being a contributor.


When looking at the Gopher defensive line, you pretty much have to look at the top 8 guys. This is a unit that frequently rotates guys through, so your backups here are nearly as important to this unit’s success as the starters.

So this unit lost 2 of its starters from 2022, but they also return 6 of their top 8 (7 of 9 when you include Jefferies). The floor of this unit should be higher than what it was last season and the ceiling is high as well.

Striggow, Joyner and Logan-Redding are all entering a season where they should really be taking a significant step forward. Eastern is in that same boat, but a year younger. I expect all of these guys are going to be a little better and the hope is that one or two of them take a bigger step in their development.

One reason for excitement with this group is more about the new coach than it is about the names. DeLattiboudere (46) is young, he is incredibly energetic and he seems to be a perfect fit for what he is doing on the Gopher staff. The players have talked about how he has a great balance of having been through exactly what they are going through but also has some experience coaching at other programs. He has their attention and I believe at the end of the season we will be praising him for what he has done to improve this position unit.

This is going to be an upgrade in my opinion.


Upgrade or Downgrade for the defensive line?

This poll is closed

  • 54%
    UPGRADE - this unit is primed for a big step and it’s going to be fun
    (143 votes)
  • 37%
    NEUTRAL - not buying this stock until it’s a proven winner
    (98 votes)
  • 8%
    DOWNGRADE - I just don’t see the talent here...yet
    (23 votes)
264 votes total Vote Now