Gophers: 5 Defensive players that need to make an impact in 2023

Minnesota Golden Gophers defensive back Tyler Nubin (27) shouts before the college football game between the Minnesota Golden Gophers and the Illinois Fighting Illini on October 15, 2022, at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Illinois.  ((Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images))

The University of Minnesota football team kicks off the 2023 season against Nebraska on Aug. 31 at Huntington Bank Stadium.

The Gophers’ defense will look a lot different than the version that helped lead Minnesota to nine wins for the third time in four seasons. After a win over Syracuse in the Pinstripe Bowl, more than a dozen players left the program, either transferring or retiring. A majority of the departures were on defense.

After spring football and the team’s annual Spring Game, here are five players the Gophers need to make an impact in 2023.


Mariano Sori-Marin is gone, leaving Cody Lindenberg as the new heart of the Gophers’ defense. He started all 13 games last season and was second on the defense behind Sori-Marin with 71 tackles. His 46 solo tackles led the unit. He also had four tackles for loss and one sack. Lindenberg is the new leader and signal caller, and proved last year he can play at the Big Ten level.


Kyler Baugh came to Minnesota from Houston Baptist after falling in love with P.J. Fleck’s "Row the Boat" culture. He was pretty good on the interior defensive line as well. In 13 games, he had 36 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and one sack. His focus all offseason has been on being a leader and helping the Gophers improve their pass rush. With Trill Carter gone, it’s Baugh’s time to make an impact.


The secondary might be the Gophers’ biggest question heading into 2023, with Beanie Bishop and Ryan Stapp both leaving the program. Terell Smith is off to the NFL, leaving Justin Walley as the lone returning starter at defensive back. He’s a good one to have back, finishing last year with 39 tackles and three interceptions, as well as two pass break-ups, a forced fumble and recovery.

The Gophers have added defensive backs since the Spring Game, but Walley is the new leader of the secondary.


The Gophers need a more consistent pass rush in 2023, and it will be up to Danny Striggow to help lead that charge. He played in 11 games last season and had 20 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. He also had one interception. Thomas Rush is gone, leaving Striggow and others to step up along the defensive line.


The best news Fleck got all season came near the end, when Tyler Nubin made it official he’s coming back to the Gophers for a fifth season. He wants to finish his degree, and compete for a Big Ten West title. He’s the unquestioned leader in the back of the secondary, with 55 tackles and two tackles for loss at safety last season. He led the defense with four interceptions, and three pass break-ups.

Nubin was an MVP of the Spring Game, but largely for an offensive touchdown on a trick play. He’ll be playing in his 44th career game when the Gophers host the Cornhuskers in August.

The Minnesota football season is less than 100 days away.