Cody Poock led the Gophers with 10 tackles last week against Kent State, thrilling coach Jerry Kill, who lured the sophomore middle linebacker from Iowa Western Community College two years ago.

“He’s got great instincts,” Kill said. “He’s a hard-nosed, nasty old kid. Lets that hair grow, and tough, tough guy. The kind of guy I wish I could go recruit 100 of them. He’s really playing at a high level right now, and we’ve got him for two more years.”

Defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys has been more reserved when discussing Poock. In the Gophers’ 4-3 scheme, the middle linebacker must make quick presnap decisions, alerting the rest of the defense. That’s one area Poock needs to improve heading into Saturday’s game vs. Ohio.

“I still think that the D-line will tell you, you can get the strength call made a little bit sooner to help them get lined up,” Claeys said. “Little things like that that he needs to do.

“But playing hard covers up a lot of things. He and the group that’s in there, our back-end half, have played extremely hard, and it’s part of the reason why we are where we are.”

With Poock (24 tackles), De’Vondre Campbell (15), Jack Lynn (14) and reserves Julian Huff (10), Jonathan Celestin (eight) and Everett Williams (five), Kill said the Gophers are getting the best linebacker play in his staff’s five years with the team.

“I feel good about the way everyone plays, the way we fly to the ball,” Poock said. “We’ve been playing pretty well. Just communication has been slowing us down a little bit.”

Joe Christensen