Gophers’ defensive line depth in question

Jack Satzinger

Minnesota defensive lineman Yoshoub Timms walks off the field with a leg injury Thursday night against Eastern Illinois. Amanda Snyder/Minnesota Daily

Minnesota defensive lineman Yoshoub Timms walks off the field with a leg injury Thursday night against Eastern Illinois. Amanda Snyder/Minnesota Daily

After his team topped Eastern Illinois 42-20 Thursday night, Gophers head coach Jerry Kill said he was concerned about injuries to  several of his defensive linemen. On Friday morning, Kill didn't know the severity of Yoshoub Timms, Alex Keith or Scott Ekpe's injuries.

He wouldn't specify exactly where each player was hurt, but Kill did say each player had suffered a leg injury. If a combination of the three players can't play against Middle Tennessee State next Saturday, Minnesota's depth up front will take a serious hit. 

"You can't lose any front line players and be where you need to be," Kill said. "You've got to stay healthy, you've got to be lucky. So hopefully we'll get lucky on this deal. We'll have to see."

The players are undergoing tests including MRIs on Friday.

Minnesota played multiple true freshmen on the defensive line Thursday, including Steven Richardson, Andrew Stelter and Gaelin Elmore — who moved from tight end after showing his capacity to gain the weight necessary for the position. Kill said Elmore is up to about 270 pounds, which is well over the 258-pound mark he's listed at on the team website. Redshirt junior Robert Ndondo-Lay also saw ample playing time in the trenches.

Ndondo-Lay, Richardson, Stelter and Elmore now could be relied upon to be key contributors.

"That's four defensive linemen who all played last night and played quality minutes," Kill said. "They've just got to grow up faster."

Senior defensive lineman Michael Amaefula, who sat out of Thursday's win, is expected to play next week. But three defensive linemen possibly missing time is a letdown for Minnesota — and especially Keith.

The junior forced a fumble, recovered two fumbles and notched a sack before going down. 

"He's taken care of himself. He wants to be a great player," Kill said of Keith. "I would say he's the David Cobb of the defense. He's matured and I just hope he's OK."