Gophers linebacker Blake Cashman, the team’s leading tackler in 2018, has received an invitation to the NFL combine, a source with knowledge of the situation confirmed Friday.
Cashman, a senor and former walk-on from Eden Prairie, led Minnesota with 104 tackles (62 solo), tied for the team lead with Carter Coughlin with 15 tackles for loss and added 2.5 sacks. Cashman opted to skip the Gophers’ appearance in the Quick Lane Bowl to focus on preparing for the NFL draft.
The combine, which NFL teams use to evaluate draft prospects, will be held Feb. 26-March 4 in Indianapolis.
Cashman, 6-2 and 235 pounds, was especially strong late in the season for the Gophers, making nine tackles and forcing a fumble and returning it 40 yards for a touchdown in the 41-10 rout of Purdue. In a 24-14 loss to Northwestern, he was at his best, making a career-high 20 tackles, including 2.5 tackles for loss and a sack.
Cashman was the highest-graded linebacker in the Big Ten this season by Pro Football Focus, which also named him as a second-team All-America selection. He was named second-team All-Big Ten by the conference’s media members.
Gophers coach P.J. Fleck believes Cashman has a bright future in the NFL.
“He’s not your prototypical really tall, rangy linebacker, but that guy’s going to play in the NFL if he stays healthy,’’ Fleck said in November. “I think he can play in the NFL for a long time, especially on special teams and as a ’backer on certain [coverage] packages.’’
Cashman dealt with shoulder injuries during his Gophers career, needing three surgeries in the past year, and that played in his decision to skip the bowl game. “I would hate for an injury — really something you can’t control — to have any bearing on my opportunity to get on [an NFL] team,’’ he said in December.