Gophers defensive ends Boye Mafe and Esezi Otomewo took a step toward their NFL careers Tuesday by accepting invitations to the Senior Bowl on Feb. 5 in Mobile, Ala.
The fifth-year seniors, who have a year of eligibility remaining should they choose to use it, will take part in the all-star game and the week of practices run by NFL coaching staffs.
Mafe led the Gophers with six sacks and nine tackles for a loss this season and ranked sixth with 30 tackles. On Tuesday, he was named second-team All-Big Ten by media members and third-team all-conference by the coaches. Otomewo had 27 tackles, 2.5 tackles for a loss and one sack in 2021 and received honorable mention from the media and conference coaches.
Both Mafe and Otomewo participated in Senior Day activities before the Gophers' 23-13 victory Saturday over Wisconsin, but they have not announced their plans for 2022. Players invited to the Senior Bowl can return to college if they have eligibility remaining. Penn State had two players do that last year.
Mafe and Otomewo will be joined at the Senior Bowl by Gophers offensive tackle Daniel Faalele. The last time the Gophers had three players in the Senior Bowl was in 2001, when offensive lineman Ben Hamilton and defensive linemen Karon Riley and John Schlecht participated.
All-Big Ten update
The Gophers ranked fourth nationally and second in the Big Ten in total defense, but that didn't translate to many players on the all-conference defensive teams announced Tuesday.
Mafe was named to the All-Big Ten second team by media members and to the third team by the coaches' vote. Gophers receiving honorable mention from media members were linebackers Jack Gibbens and Mariano Sori-Marin, safety Tyler Nubin and Otomewo. Sori-Marin and Otomewo received honorable mention from the coaches.
Quarterback Tanner Morgan was the team's Sportsmanship Award winner from the coaches.
The Big Ten will announce its all-conference offensive teams and honors Wednesday.
Big Ten individual award winners for defense, special teams
Defensive player of the year: Aidan Hutchinson, DE, Michigan
Defensive lineman of the year: Hutchinson
Linebacker of the year: Leo Chenal, Wisconsin
Defensive back of the year: Riley Moss, Iowa
Kicker of the year: Jake Moody, Michigan.
Punter of the year: Jordan Stout, Penn State
Return specialist of the year: Charlie Jones, Iowa
Coach of the year (both media and coaches votes): Mel Tucker, Michigan State
Humanitarian Award: Malcolm Jenkins, former Ohio State player
Leadership Award: Pat Richter, former Wisconsin player and athletic director
Woodbury linebacker commits to U
Woodbury linebacker Joey Gerlach announced via Twitter on Tuesday that he has committed to the Gophers football program for the 2022 recruiting class. Gerlach, a 6-3, 195-pound three-star recruit as ranked by 247Sports.com, originally committed to South Dakota State in July before flipping his commitment to the Gophers.
Gerlach had 76 tackles, three tackles for loss, three forced fumbles and two interceptions this season. He is the ninth-ranked recruit in the state for 2022, according to 247Sports.com, and gives the Gophers 15 players committed in the 2022 recruiting class.
Two more in transfer portal
Gophers redshirt freshman tight end Austin Henderson and true freshman wide receiver Dylan Hillard-McGill have entered the transfer portal. Henderson, of Nashville, played in one game in 2020 but none this season. Hillard-McGill, of Altus, Okla., did not play this season. Nine Gophers players have entered the transfer portal since the season began.