The Minnesota Gophers have won 8+ games in three of the past four seasons, but they just hired their third head coach over that same span this offseason. P.J. Fleck comes to Minnesota after building Western Michigan into a New Year's Six bowl team, and he will surely inject some energy into the program. Minnesota has boasted one of the conferences' strongest defenses over the past few seasons, and they have the potential to field another strong unit this year.


The Gophers' most impressive player on defense is their senior defensive tackle Steven Richardson who racked up 7 sacks and 11 tackles for loss from the interior of the Gophers' defense last season.

According to Pro Football Focus, Richardson led all returning B1G defensive tackles in total QB pressure situations last season with 41. Minnesota has two more starters returning along the defensive line to go along with a possible future first-round pick in Richardson.


Minnesota has a ton of experience returning at the linebacker position in 2017 with seven players who played over 100 snaps last season. The linebacking corps will be led by their three upperclassmen: senior Jonathan Celestin, junior Julian Huff, and senior Cody Poock.

Sophomore Carter Coughlin and junior Blake Cashman were also impressive in their limited snaps, with Cashman totaling 7.5 sacks and 10.5 TFL's in 2016. Minnesota's defensive dominance of late was led by a secondary full of NFL talent, but it will be the linebackers who lead the way for this defense next season.


Speaking of the Gophers' secondary, they've had to replace some major contributors with three of their DB's making NFL rosters over the past two seasons, including CB Jalen Myrick, who started 36 games for the Gophers over the past three seasons.

Upperclassmen CB's Antonio Shenault and Adekunle Ayinde will step into larger roles this season to replace Myrick and Damarius Travis -- who were both sensational in 2016.

Safety Antonio Winfield Jr. showed a ton of promise in his freshman season, and he looks like he has the potential to follow in his father's footsteps as an NFL defensive back. Senior Duke McGhee also brings some experience to go along with Winfield Jr.'s explosive talent.

Minnesota had a top-25 defense last season according to Bill Connelly's numbers at SB Nation, and there is enough top-level talent returning to continue that success in 2017 as long as they can adjust to a new defensive scheme under Fleck.