The whirlwind tour of Gophers positional depth ends with the last line of defense, the safety positions. First lets look back at 2011. The safety position began and ended with senior leader Kim Royston last year. He led the team with 123 tackles, 36 more tackles than the next closest teammate. However, that statistic is also a glaring red flag about the underwhelming performance of the Gophers defense in 2011. When the 3rd level of the defense is leading the tackles category it highlights that there were critical failures in the front seven. Also gone is Christyn Lewis and his 43 tackles, who graduated, and James Manuel due to a transition to outside linebacker. As a result, the Gophers enter 2012 with really no experienced safety on the roster.
Conclusion: Losing a senior leader and talented player in Kim Royston is tough, but it is especially tough when there is so little experience to fall back on. The good news is that Jerry Kill actively addressed the situation and transitioned Brock Vereen and Derrick Wells to safety, which provides some much needed talent and stability. In addition, Grayson and Cedric both were forced to play early as true freshmen, so they enter 2012 with more experience than you would expect. Lastly, Damarius Travis and Antonio Johnson are incoming freshmen that appear to have the necessary tools to be solid multi year starters. Entering 2012, the Gophers will have 2 Juniors, 3 Sophomores and 2 true Freshmen manning the safety positions. As a result, it is a young core of players that can hopefully make significant strides over the coming year. Thanks to the position changes it is not the glaring weakness it appeared to be a matter of weeks ago, but I would still look for Kill to fill the safety position with at least another player in the upcoming 2013 recruiting class.