Gophers football: What will the 2023 defense look like?

Minnesota Golden Gophers celebrate making a stop during the college football game between the North Western Wildcats and Minnesota Gophers on November 12th, 2022, at Huntington Bank in Minneapolis, MN.  ((Photo by Bailey Hillesheim/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images))

The University of Minnesota football team opens the 2023 regular season against Nebraska Thursday night at Huntington Bank Stadium, a game you can watch on FOX 9.

Last week, we took a look at what the Gophers’ 2023 offense could look like with new personnel, highlighted by quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis. This week, we take a look at the defense ahead of hosting the Cornhuskers.

It features a mix of experience and youth at every level, and new names after the Gophers lost players to graduation and the transfer portal. Regardless, Joe Rossi is one of the best defensive coordinators in the country and will have the Gophers ready for the 2023 season. So what will this version look like? Here’s a quick glance at some of the names you’ll hear this season:


The Gophers need to generate a consistent pass rush this season, they had only 19 sacks in 13 games last year. That effort starts up front, and P.J. Fleck says as many as eight or nine players will rotate in and get snaps on the line. The unit is led by Danny Striggow, Jalen Logan-Redding, Kyler Baugh and Jah Joyner. Those four combined four seven sacks last season.

Also, don’t sleep on Deven Eastern, Darnell Jefferies, Chris Collins and Anthony Smith, who at 6-6 and 285 pounds was one of the standouts of fall camp. 


What we know is that Cody Lindenberg is new the middle of the Gophers’ defense, handed the torch from Mariano Sori-Marin. The former Anoka standout is ready after finishing last season with 71 tackles, four tackles for loss and one sack in 13 games.

What we don’t know is who plays alongside him, and who steps in if he gets hurt? The names to watch are Devon Williams, who played a ton with the first-team defense in fall camp. Maverick Baranowski, Joey Gerlach and Ryan Selig are also competing for playing time. The role alongside Lindenberg has been one of the more intriguing battles of fall camp.


Jordan Howden and Terell Smith are gone from the secondary. The unquestioned leaders of the back unit this season are Tyler Nubin and Justin Walley. Nubin has garnered several preseason accolades after collecting 58 tackles, and leading the defense last year with four interceptions. Walley had 39 tackles and three interceptions.

After those two, it gets a little cloudier in the secondary with less recognizable names. Some of the ones to watch are Tre’Von Jones, Tyler Bride, Za’Quan Bryan, Aidan Gousby, Tariq Watson, Darius Green and Coleman Bryson. The Gophers are also waiting on an NCAA waiver decision on Craig McDonald, which would give the defense a big boost if he’s eligible.

We’ll get our first chance to see what it all looks like Thursday night against Nebraska.