Replacing the production and leadership of Damien Wilson will be the top priority of linebackers coach Mike Sherels, who enters his second year at the position. Gone are Wilson’s team-highs of 119 tackles, 10.5 tackles-for-loss and four sacks, after he was picked by the Dallas Cowboys in the fourth round of the 2015 NFL Draft.
The good news for Sherels and the Gophers is that three of the top four tackling linebackers return from a defense that held opponents to 368.2 yards per game – the program’s second-lowest mark since 2003.
Returning starters De’Vondre Campbell and Jack Lynn bring a wealth of experience as the tandem has played in 42 games combined. Campbell, a redshirt senior, has 116 career tackles, including 75 last season.
The Fort Myers, Fla. native also added 6.5 tackles-for-loss, 2.5 sacks, three fumble recoveries and an interception returned for a touchdown to his standout 2014 campaign. Campbell led the Gophers in tackles from the outside linebacker spot twice last season. The 6-foot-5, 239-pound defender made a team-high 11 tackles at Illinois and at Nebraska to pace the Gophers linebacker core.
Lynn, a redshirt junior who has beefed up 28 pounds since his freshman season, tallied 57 tackles – seven of which were behind the line of scrimmage – and forced three fumbles while manning the outside linebacker position a season ago. Both Campbell and Lynn will be called upon to produce for fifth-year defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys.
Cedric Dicke and Nick Rallis complete the upperclassman list for linebackers with both having redshirt junior athletic standing. Rallis contributed three tackles against Eastern Illinois last season before suffering a season-ending knee injury against Middle Tennessee State.
Redshirt sophomores Ray Dixon, Cody Poock and Chris Wipson will also be looking to fill the void by Wilson’s departure, heading into the 2015 season. Dixon made his collegiate debut against Northwestern last year but did not record any statistics. Poock, standing at 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, saw his first season in Minneapolis cut short as he was injured in the spring of 2014, but was named the team’s Defensive Work Team Player of the Year. Wipson primarily saw action on special teams last year.
After successful freshman campaigns, 6-foot-1 sophomores Jonathan Celestin and Everett Williams return to the field having playing in 11 and eight games last season, respectively. Celestin recorded 16 tackles and forced a fumble, while Williams added three tackles and a pass breakup for the 2014 Gophers squad.
The coaching staff added four talented newcomers for the upcoming season in sophomore Blake Weber and freshmen Julian Huff, Joey Mydra and Jaylen Waters. Huff and Waters were both tabbed three-star recruits coming out of high school last spring. All four have had successful starts to fall practice and will be looking to contribute in a big way as the Gophers linebackers of the future.
Ski-U-Mah Weekly: Episode 14
12/11/2017 - Football
Former Gopher Basketball player Spencer Tollackson joined Justin Gaard on Ski-U-Mah Weekly Dec. 11 to talk Minnesota Basketball and more!
Vote O’Brien for Uplifting Athletes Award
12/11/2017 - Football
Gophers walk-on holder and two-time cancer survivor Casey O'Brien is one of four finalists for Rare Disease Champion Award.
B1G Recognizes 95 Gophers For Academics
12/6/2017 - Football
Ninety-five University of Minnesota student-athletes have earned Academic All-Big Ten honors, announced Wednesday by the conference office.