With spring practice opening for the Gophers today, don’t forget about Jack Lynn.
The redshirt sophomore probably will line up with the second-team defense at middle linebacker, behind senior Damien Wilson, who was everything the Gophers hoped for last fall as a junior college transfer.
But Lynn’s time is coming.
The two starting outside linebackers from last year’s team graduated – Aaron Hill and James Manuel. Defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys told me last week that he won’t hesitate to move Lynn to an outside linebacker spot after spring practice if he proves to be one of the team’s top three linebackers.
“We tell the kids all the time, if they’re good enough to start at another position, we’re going to do what’s best for the team,” Claeys said. “So if we get through spring ball, and Jack is our third best linebacker, we’re going to make the adjustments to put him in there because he would deserve that. He’s worked extremely hard, so I’m excited to see what he does.”
The middle linebacker plays a crucial role in the 4-3 defense, and Claeys believes it’s imperative to have two good ones ready. Last year, Lynn played in just three games, making five tackles, but he provided invaluable insurance while Wilson learned the system.
“Jack was redshirted [in 2012] because he needed to gain weight,” Claeys said. “He’s pushing 240 pounds now, and he has tremendous length [at 6-3].
“He’s really on schedule for a normal player that you bring into a Big Ten program. He should get quite a few reps his redshirt sophomore year. And his junior and senior year, it’s going to be one of those things where the [middle linebacker] position is his to lose because of the work he’s put in.”
Bottom line: I think Wilson and De’Vondre Campbell are two locks to start at linebacker. Junior college transfer Cody Poock, Nick Rallis, De’Niro Laster and Rayfield Dixon are candidates to start at strong-side linebacker. But Lynn has a chance to become a starter this fall.
The Gophers will be even more likely to shift Lynn if they like what they see from incoming recruit Everett Williams, from Mansfield, Texas. Williams was a consensus three-star recruit, but Tom Lemming, of CBS Sports Network, sees an even higher ceiling.
“Everett Williams is a very good athlete,” Lemming told me. “I went and saw him. He can run with the backs. He’s a big-time guy. He’s got four-star potential. He can run.”