On signing day many Gopher fans were disappointed to find out that long-time Miami Central LB commit, Brian Nicholson did not sign his letter of intent. Luckily, as reported by Ryan Burns at Gopher Illustrated, Nicholson still plans to be in Minnesota come June. It appears grades are not the issue holding Nicholson back, instead it is personal matters. This goes to show you the power of internet rumors and how often they are so so wrong.
In 2012 the Gophers will be without their top LB from the last two years in MLB Gary Tinsley. However, the Gophers are returning both of their starting OLBs from the last two season in Keanon Cooper and Mike Rallis. The team is somewhat deep as far as experience goes. Other players returning with playing experience include Ryan Grant, Spencer Reeves, Lamonte Edwards, Aaron Hill and Joey Balthazor. The problem with the group lies with the underclassmen.
The team returns just five underclassmen on scholarship, a relatively low number. For the 2012 recruiting class, Jerry Kill was looking not just to add bodies, but athletic ones. Typically most LBs entering the college game spend at least one year putting on weight or losing “baby fat”. This group does not seem different and will be judged later on down the road.
A late offer by Jerry Kill and staff, Anyanwu was a multi-dimensional QB in high school who will likely be asked to move to the defensive side of the ball for the Gophers. Based on his size and speed most project Anyanwu as a linebacker. He will likely red-shirt in 2012 and spend a few years on special teams before breaking into the 2-deeps. Anyanwu is definitely a longer term project, but could prove to be worth the wait when all is said and done.
Prediction: Your guess is as good as mine here. I would not expect to see Anyanwu playing significant snaps until 2015 as a RS Junior.
Lynn is another tall and athletic prospect who will join the Gophers on the defensive side of the ball in 2012. He spent time at WR during his senior, showcasing his straight-line speed and athleticism. Lynn is good in his pass drops and takes good pursuit angles to the ball. He needs to work on keeping his knees bent and although he projects as an OLB, Lynn needs to learn to keep his feet underneath him while playing inside the box.
Prediction: Lynn is another prospect who I see taking some time to progress into an impact player for the Gophers. This is not to say he will not be a great player, but his development will be slower than other players. Expect to see Lynn playing significant snaps in 2015.
Even with the limited amount of film I saw on Nicholson, I could tell he was a hitter and that he never quite on a play. Nicholson made quite a few plays coming from the opposite side of the formation. Nicholson transferred to Miami Central prior to his senior year and that may be a reason he did not receive any other offers than that from Minnesota. He will come in highly regarded from both Rivals.com and Scout.com.
Prediction: Nicholson will red-shirt in 2012 and compete for special teams playing time in 2013 before competing for a starting job the year after.
The Gophers’ coaches are concerned with an injury Rallis sustained during his senior season, but expect him to contribute to this team down the road. Rallis is a great tackler who lays the wood. Go to the 20 second mark of the video clip below to see exactly how big of a hitter he is. Rallis is a little short for LB and spent time at safety while in high school. If he can come back from his injury expect production similar to his brother and SR LB Mike Rallis, but with a lot harder hits.
Prediction: Rallis will red-shirt in 2012, but be a big contributor on special teams in 2013. Should compete for starting position in 2014.