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With five upper classmen and ten different players seeing action, linebacker is one of Minnesota’s deepest and most experienced positions on defense. Even with a deep rotation and vast experience at the position, three sophomores, Thomas Barber, Carter Coughlin and Kamal Martin have shined so far for the Gophers.
“I think it is really important to note that they are really young. They are going to be around for a long time,” head coach P.J. Fleck said. “To have them playing significant roles with a lot of youth on our football team, that is only good for the future. That really helps us now and that really helps us for the future. So when I talk about the future, the future is talking right now. My focus has to be embracing our past, learning everything we can to create our future. Guys like that really help that.”
These three have certainly helped the Gophers in the present. They have started every game and combined for 60 tackles and three takeaways this season.
No one on the Gophers has done a better job forcing turnovers than Barber, who is a legacy Gopher from Plymouth, Minn. Through five games, he has forced two fumbles and also notched his first career interception. Barber has also been a menace for offenses to handle, as he is tied for second on the team with 36 tackles. Barber has turned up his play in the Big Ten as he has 20 tackles in his last two games.
Coughlin, who is playing as a rush end this year, has been a nightmare for opposing offensive linemen, especially of late. Against Purdue, Coughlin broke out for the best performance of his young career. Late in the first quarter, he cause disruption in the backfield and helped fellow sophomore Barber drag down Purdue’s quarterback for a sack. Coughlin would later find his way into Purdue’s backfield again, utilizing his speed to get to the quarterback for the second time that day. Coughlin set a career high with 1.5 sacks at Purdue and through five games, the Eden Prairie, Minn., native leads the team with 5.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks.
Martin, who hails from Burnsville, Minn., has shown significant growth and improvement from last season. He had a break-out game against Purdue where he recorded a career-high seven tackles and notched his second interception. The pick came early in the second quarter when the Boilermakers were inside the red zone and threatening to score. Instead, Martin read the quarterback’s eyes and snagged an interception in the end zone.
Six Gophers Receive Athlon Recognition
5/24/2018 - Football
Athlon Sports has named six Gophers to its Big Ten Football 2018 All-Conference Team. This preseason announcement is a prediction by the magazine on how players will perform in 2018.
Player Profile: Rodney Smith
5/23/2018 - Football
Rodney Smith will go down in Minnesota history as one of the program’s most elite running backs and has a chance this season to set a new standard for all-purpose yards by a Gopher.
Virtual Tour: Larson Football Performance Center
5/10/2018 - Football
Take a virtual tour of the new home of Minnesota Golden Gopher Football, the David & Janis Larson Performance Center!