The Gophers' pass defense ranked fourth in the Big Ten and 12th nationally in 2012. Despite losing two of its starters, the Minnesota secondary does not anticipate any type of drop-off.
Vereen: "To be the best secondary in the Big Ten is our goal."
"Mike Carter and Troy Stoudermire were great players, but we still have confidence going forward that we'll be a better secondary," senior safety Brock Vereen said. "To be the best secondary in the Big Ten is our goal."
Vereen is one of the secondary's top returners. He switched from cornerback to safety last year, and continued to grow into the position as the year went on. Vereen is even more comfortable in that spot now that he is in his second season playing there.
Junior Derrick Wells is another returning starter, although he will be at a different position than last fall. He moved from safety to cornerback, and is bigger than both the departing senior starters he will help to replace. Like Vereen, Wells anticipates the defensive backs continuing to build upon last year's improvements.
"I think we are more athletic in the secondary," he said. "We have a lot of speed, a lot of size."
Eric Murray's name has been tossed around as one to watch this year, but Wells also mentioned that Briean Boddy-Calhoun and Martez Shabazz have potential for good seasons.
Head coach Jerry Kill emphasized the team aspect of defense. The linemen, linebackers and secondary all need to be effective in order to truly stop opposing offenses.
"I think if the team gets better, the secondary will be good," Kill said.
With a veteran defensive line and some up-and-coming linebackers, the Gopher defensive backs are not on their own. And with the goal of being the best in the Big Ten, they certainly will not lack motivation and intensity.