Return to Glory

Return to Glory

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Analyzing Depth of the Defensive Tackle Position

We continue our inspection of the Gopher defense by taking a close look at the defensive tackle position. I think it is important to start by looking at what sort of productivity we were getting out of the defensive tackle position in 2011. The defensive tackle position sets the tone for stopping the run and sadly the Gophers didn't do a great job of stopping the run in 2011. The Gophers allowed opponents to rush for 2,237 yards while averaging 4.9 yards per attempt. I think those numbers speak for themselves... not good. The bottom line is that our safety Kim Royston led the Gophers in tackles in 2011 and when the 3rd level of the defense is accumulating the most tackles it is safe to say the defense failed. This is particularly concerning when you consider that arguably the strength of the Gophers defense in 2011 was up the middle with senior defensive tackles Anthony Jacobs and Brandon Kirksey. Also, our middle linebacker was the solid senior Gary Tinsley. Anthony Jacobs accounted for 26 tackles, 6 tackles for loss and 1 sack. Brandon Kirksey had 19 tackles, 1 tackle for loss and no sacks. Both our tackles played in all 12 games of the 2011 season and were relatively healthy. I personally always greatly enjoyed watching Brandon Kirksey play, as I felt he was a strong leader and represented the university in a positive way. However, neither Kirksey or Jacobs provided above average ability on the football field. We have already evaluated the great unknown that is the defensive end position and now the Gophers must replace 2 senior defensive tackles.  Who exactly will those replacements be?

RaShede Hageman: should immediately step in as a starting defensive tackle. He factored heavily in the rotation in 2011, as he played in all 12 games and accumulated 13 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and 2 sacks. The only defensive lineman with more sacks was DL Wilhite. RaShede enters 2012 as a redshirt junior. He weighs in at 6'6" 302 lbs and has demonstrated the combination of size and speed to be a wrecking ball in the middle of a defense. RaShede is a Minnesota native that played high school football for Minneapolis Washburn. In high school he was actually a tight end and widely regarded as one of the best tight ends in the 2009 class. In fact, recruiter Tom Lemming ranked him the #1 tight end in the country and #97 player overall. However, Brewster transitioned him to the defensive line, which has proven to be a slow process. However, as the 2011 season progressed it seemed the RaShede was growing comfortable and confident in his ability to play defensive tackle. I am extremly excited to see what he can produce now that he is slotted in as a starting defensive tackle. He simply provides a much stronger range of athletic skills than either Kirksey or Jacobs did, and as a result I believe he can be a disruptive force in the middle of the Gophers defense.

Roland Johnson: arrives on campus in 2012 as a JUCO from Butler County Community College. He will be a junior for the Gophers in 2012. Roland comes from Duncan, South Carolina where he played high school football for South Carolina powerhouse Byrnes High School. His senior season he had 160 tackles and 16 sacks. He is 6'1" 295 lbs. Roland lacks ideal size to anchor the middle but he makes up for with a quick first step, great motor and a willingness to be physical. This kid has put up solid numbers throughout his career, but has often been overlooked due to his lack of size. I think he will most likely be the other defensive tackle lining up next to RaShede on most downs. I also think he will prove to be a more disruptive player than either Kirksey or Jacobs were last year.

Eric Jacques: is also a redshirt junior that hails from Pompano Beach, Florida. He weighs in at 6'2" 286 lbs. Eric appeared in 7 games last year and assisted on 4 tackles. Eric was not highly regarded coming out of high school and initially projected as an offensive guard, but depth issues resulted in him converting to defensive tackle. Eric's playing time has been limited, but what little I have seen doesn't lead me to believe he will help upgrade the Gophers interior defense. He will most likely come off the bench to help keep RaShede and Roland fresh.

Harold Legania: is a redshirt sophomore that hails from New Orleans, Louisiana. He is a solid 6'4" 292 lbs. As a redshirt freshman last year, Harold did not see any game action. Without any true game tape to go off of, it is challenging to project what Harold will do in 2012. I will say that his measurables stack up better than Eric Jacques, so I could see him pushing to be the first defensive tackle off the bench.

Yoshoub Timms: was a late addition to the Gophers 2012 recruiting class. He hails from Fort Walton Beach, Florida. ESPN ranked Yoshoub as the #83 defensive tackle in the country. He weighs in at 6'2" 265 lbs and has the frame to bulk up in the years ahead. He has demonstrated that he can be extremely stout against the run, but must work to get off the ball quicker and maintain separation from blockers. Yoshoub will most likely redshirt in 2012, but I look for him to be a valuable contributor in the upcoming years.

Conclusion: Defensive tackle productivity begins and ends with RaShede Hageman. If RaShede can finally tap into his enormous athletic abilities, he will help elevate the entire defensive line for the next two years. The Gophers will miss the experience and leadership of Jacobs and Kirksey, but I think RaShede and incoming JUCO Roland will provide more productivity from the position. I also think Harold Legania may take a step forward and show he can be a valuable contributor to the defensive line rotation. Yoshoub and another incoming freshman Jordan Hinojosa will almost certainly redshirt and have a few seasons to bulk up. Aside from RaShede, this remains a position that lacks upper echelon athletic ability. I think we will see improvement over the past few years, but the Gophers need to continue to recruit better defensive tackles that can hold up to the rigors of Big 10 play.

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