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?
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.