Gophers football: 5 defensive players to watch for the 2022 season

BleedGopher

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per Wald:

Minnesota won nine games last year in large part to its defense. The Gophers finished No. 3 in the country in total defense, No. 8 in rushing defense and No. 6 in scoring defense. With that, here’s five defensive players to watch this season:

MARIANO SORI-MARIN

Mariano Sori-Marin is one of the veterans of the Gophers’ defense, and he’s the epitome of Fleck’s "failure is growth" mantra. He had his struggles as a young linebacker staying in gaps and missing tackles, but is now a captain of the defense and is the unit’s top returning tackler, and was one of the player representatives at Big ten Media Days. He made 85 stops in 13 starts last year, including five tackles for loss, one interception and two forced fumbles. He was an All-Big Ten Honorable Mention pick, and Fleck will lean on the veteran to lead the defense this season.

TYLER NUBIN

Tyler Nubin might be one of the most improved players on Minnesota’s defense. Joining Sori-Marin as the other defensive player at Big Ten Media Days, Nubin was third for the Gophers last year with 52 tackles in 13 starts. He led the secondary with three interceptions, and had one sack. He was also the Defensive MVP of the Guaranteed Rate Bowl.

He’s gotten better each season, and pairing with Jordan Howden should make them one of the top safety duos in the Big Ten.

THOMAS RUSH

There are a lot of questions along the defensive line as the 2022 season starts, but Thomas Rush isn’t one of them. The fifth-year senior has improved each season, and the rush end finished 2021 with 31 tackles, 7.5 for loss and was second on the defense with 5.5 sacks in 13 starts. With Boye Mafe and Esezi Otomewo off to the NFL, Rush will be called onto step up on the defensive line.

CODY LINDENBERG/JOSH AUNE

They’re both Minnesota high school products, and both are coming off injuries that ended their 2021 seasons. Cody Lindenberg out of Anoka had 10 tackles in six games as a freshman in 2020. Last year, he had one tackle against Ohio State and two against Colorado before missing the rest of the season. Aune, out of St. Paul Highland Park, made 11 tackles in seven games as a sophomore in 2020. He missed all of last season, and is back healthy. The Gophers need a third linebacker behind Sori-Marin and Braelin Oliver, and both Aune and Lindenberg could get looks.

JUSTIN WALLEY

Justin Walley may have been a freshman in the Gophers’ secondary last season, but he certainly didn’t play like it. He had 29 tackles in 13 starts, had one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries and seven pass break-ups. He made arguably his biggest play of the season with an interception against Wisconsin, which led to a go-ahead touchdown in the rivalry win.


Go Gophers!!
 

NotAFanOfBecky

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I’m excited for this defense. I think they will be sneaky good. Probably not as good as last year but they will be solid. If reports I have heard from some of the “in the know” folks I’m around the d-line could surprise. Those young D-tackles are legit I’m told. I think Joyner looked good in limited action and Booker has gotten a lot of hype, hope it’s deserved. Now beat Iowa, get the monkey of the back and win the West!
 

Gopherchase

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Oliver is by far the biggest potential difference maker at LB. He can have a big year making big plays I love watching him play. Let’s hope 45 has a bounce back from his injuries he’s strong and fast and I love his potential. 55 plays only special teams if he wasn’t a Fleck bobo.
 

Soon2B8

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Oliver is by far the biggest potential difference maker at LB. He can have a big year making big plays I love watching him play. Let’s hope 45 has a bounce back from his injuries he’s strong and fast and I love his potential. 55 plays only special teams if he wasn’t a Fleck bobo.
I agree Oliver is going to be a difference maker! Finally at full speed he will be dominating!
Disagree on 55 he will anchor that middle defense he finally seems to be caught up to the speed of the game and getting where he needs to be. Maybe won't make splash plays but because he will be where he needs to be others will!
SKI U MAH
 



WriterGoph

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Oliver is by far the biggest potential difference maker at LB. He can have a big year making big plays I love watching him play. Let’s hope 45 has a bounce back from his injuries he’s strong and fast and I love his potential. 55 plays only special teams if he wasn’t a Fleck bobo.

This poster has a creepy Single White Female-ish obsession with Mariano and Tanner. Delusions involving a Big Ten head coach purposely not playing his best players because he has some kind of crush on certain veteran players. 🙄
 

MNVCGUY

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This poster has a creepy Single White Female-ish obsession with Mariano and Tanner. Delusions involving a Big Ten head coach purposely not playing his best players because he has some kind of crush on certain veteran players. 🙄
There are a couple that get this way about MSM and Morgan. It is odd.
 

Gopherchase

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I don’t think it’s odd at all I love the Gophers, but the past two seasons have despised watching 2 and 55 play; and even more so have despised watching them be paraded around as the face of the team like they are high end performers. Neither have played worth a damn and are lucky to be at a place where culture can take precedence over talent and performance. Can’t change opinions on here of others that don’t think that happens.
 

WriterGoph

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Not "worth a damn", huh? 🤣

I've been watching Big Ten football for 35 years and this is the first time I've heard that they give All-Big Ten Honorable Mention to players who are just lucky to be in uniform. You realize MSM was 2nd on the team in tackles and a leader on a national Top 10 defense, right?

If you're gonna blame him for 2020, then you need to give credit where it's due for his much improved play in 2021. But yeah, I know that wouldn't fit your narrative.

Also, you might need to sort out your emotions a bit if you're "despising" two guys who have been fantastic representatives of the University and the program.
 






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