Davis bolsters Gophers’ pass rush

Matt Perkins

Making the high school to college football transition is never easy, especially in the case for Minnesota football freshman defense end Steve Davis.

Davis is undersized, at 230 pounds, going head to head with 300-plus pound Big Ten linemen, and said he was scared about how he would fare.

But for the guy teammates call “Little Freeney,” after Indianapolis Colts all-pro defensive end Dwight Freeney, the fear is gone.

And it’s been replaced by a healthy confidence.

“It felt good getting a couple of sacks in the Big House (Michigan Stadium),” Davis said. “But I didn’t feel it was my best game, I can play better.”

Obviously, the best is still to come for a guy only halfway through his first collegiate season.

Davis leads the team with five tackles for a loss, including a team-high three sacks.

The Gophers will require Davis’ speed on the outside this week, as they face a No. 23 Wisconsin team that hands the ball off more than any other team in the nation.

But Mason isn’t worried about the freshman’s first game against the border rival Badgers.

“He’s tremendous,” Mason said. “From a maturity standpoint, when you’re around him, he doesn’t seem like a freshman. He’s really quiet, really reserved, and very serious.”

That seriousness comes through in his film study, something he said he paid close attention to in previewing Wisconsin’s running back Brian Calhoun.

He noted the speed of Calhoun and his ability to get outside quickly, but said he thinks he is ready for the challenge.

And he should be.

Davis said he was fortunate to practice early on against one of the best offensive lines in the nation, and a running back who’s not too shabby either – Laurence Maroney.

Mason said the matchups in practice have had a direct effect on Davis’ early impact on the Gophers’ defense.

“Let’s face it, we go one’s on one’s quite a bit here, and he’s been doing that since Aug. 4,” Mason said. “We think our front’s pretty good, and he’s been able to hold up.”

That allowed Davis to earn their respect and praise, and maybe none throw compliments his way more than Maroney.

Maroney has gone up against some good defensive ends in his three-year career, and he said “Baby Dwight Freeney” is already good.

Soon to be great.

“The guy is good,” Maroney said. “He’s undersized but still able to do well. He’s going to be a monster once he gains some size.”