Jacob Huff becomes integral part to the defensive back core

Huff had an interception return for a touchdown against the Blue Raiders last game.

Junior defensive back Jacob Huff runs in for a touchdown against Middle Tennessee on Sept. 16 at TCF Bank Stadium.

Junior defensive back Jacob Huff runs in for a touchdown against Middle Tennessee on Sept. 16 at TCF Bank Stadium.

Drew Cove

Minnesota’s defensive back core is proving to be deeper than expected this season.

Safety Jacob Huff has shown improvement from last season, especially against Middle Tennessee State. Huff is coming off a game where he was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the week for his performance against the Blue Raiders.

“I still saw the excitement he had on his [face],” said defensive lineman Steven Richardson. “He wasn’t really selfish about it, he came right back and celebrated with the team.”

He recorded an interception that he returned for 67 yards, four tackles, one tackle for loss and one pass breakup. His interception return marked the first time Minnesota’s defensive unit scored points all season.

Still, his impact on the defense is no accident.

“It’s no coincidence a guy like Jacob Huff is having a phenomenal first three games,” said head coach P.J. Fleck. “He didn’t play much at all last year, and when all of the sudden you start to see him make the plays he’s making, it’s just a direct reflection of all the right things he’s doing off the field.”

When coming to Minnesota from his hometown of Bolingbrook, Illinois, he didn’t pack lightly. He and his identical twin-brother Julian made the trip, and they’re both playing for the Gophers.

Jacob Huff came out of Bolingbrook High School not only playing football, but playing and lettering in baseball and wrestling as well. The Huff family is full of football players, with Jacob Huff being a defensive back, Julian Huff a linebacker and one of their other brothers is a running back at St. Cloud State.

“Both of those guys [Jacob and Julian] are respected players within our program,” said defensive coordinator Robb Smith. “They have a great relationship with each other. They’re leaders, not only on the field, but off the field, whether it’s in the classroom, spiritually, whatever it is those guys are always doing the right thing.”

Julian has had a lot of success at linebacker in his first two years at Minnesota, including three fumble recoveries and 52 tackles over that time. Jacob is coming into his own as a member of the Gophers’ secondary, already over doubling his tackle numbers from his first two seasons. This season, Huff already has two interceptions, one returned for a touchdown, eight tackles and one tackle-for-loss.

“[Huff] has provided great leadership for us on the back end,” Smith said. “He directs a lot of traffic back there, he’s a smart player [and he] always finds himself in the right place.”

While he is making more of an impact, he is listed behind both safeties Antoine Winfield Jr. and Duke McGhee on the depth chart.

Huff will get another chance to thrive in the Gophers defensive plan this weekend versus Maryland, as the Terrapins are down two quarterbacks since their season started three games ago.