Defense goes back to basics for answers

Anthony Maggio

Although he wouldn’t disclose the name, Minnesota football coach Glen Mason confirmed on Wednesday he’s chosen a starting quarterback for Saturday’s game with Louisiana-Lafayette.

One question down, many more to go.

Mason played musical chairs with his defense this week, moving Greg White from linebacker back to defensive end, Darrell Reid from tackle to end, and Ryan Domin from end to tackle to try and correct the problems which surfaced against Toledo.

Problems resulting in 512 yards of Rockets offense and 38 points.

So far, Mason is confident with his decision.

“I see some promise there,” Mason said. “But it’s not going to be revolutionary overnight, I don’t think.”

Mason maintains he isn’t pushing the panic button, but maintains his tinkering is a matter of re-evaluating talent on a defense full of youth and inexperience.

Junior cornerback Mike Lehan, who started 10 games last year, was not happy with the outcome at Toledo, but gave the new faces joining him in starting roles a passing grade.

“We have a lot of young talent,” Lehan said. “It just wasn’t showcased that well last week. I’m looking forward to this upcoming game.”

Minnesota gave up 363 yards rushing to the Rockets, led by running back Chester Taylor’s 186 yards. On Saturday, the Gophers face a Louisiana-Lafayette team featuring running back Jerome Coleman, who rushed for 108 yards in a win over Nicholls State last week.

Therefore, stopping the run is near the top of a long to-do list for Minnesota’s defense.

“We hang our hat on stopping the run,” Lehan said. “If they want to run the ball 40 times a game and pass the ball 20 times a game then we have to be prepared for that.

“When they do decide to pass the ball, the defensive backs, we have to be ready for the ball to come in our direction. We want them to run the ball, we didn’t do a very good job stopping it, but that’s what we want them to do. We have to come up and make tackles.”

Until intangibles such as making tackles become something the Gophers can do on a regular basis, the defense will have difficulty stopping any team.

Mason understands this problem, but notices the effort his players are making to improve.

“They’ve worked hard,” Mason said. “It’s been two-fold – correcting problems we had last year and then continuing to improve. We’re not going to be very good until we improve fundamentally. Some of our youth shows up in that.”

Besides fundamentals, there is no one thing concerning Mason defensively except for “just playing better.”

Everyone in the locker room realizes it’s important for defense to play with a sense of urgency, as there is only one more non-conference game after Saturday.

“This game on Saturday is going to be a very important game for us, just to help showcase the talent we do have and get a chip on our shoulder back,” Lehan said. “We have everything to prove this week and we have nothing to lose.”


Anthony Maggio covers football and welcomes comments at [email protected]