The Gophers remain shorthanded at cornerback heading into Saturday’s game at Penn State, with KiAnte Hardin and Ray Buford still suspended, and freshman Coney Durr out because of an unspecified injury.
Hardin started the season opener against Oregon State, opposite Jalen Myrick. Buford and Dunn are top reserves.
Myrick and Antonio Shenault have started the past two games, with Zo Craighton getting playing time off the bench.
Coach Tracy Claeys said Tuesday that the staff still is considering pulling a potential redshirt from another top freshman cornerback, Kiondre Thomas.
The Gophers ranked 11th in the nation in pass defense last year (179.5 yards allowed per game). With Eric Murray (Chiefs) and Briean Boddy-Calhoun (Browns) in the NFL, the Gophers rank 68th (228.7) in pass defense so far this year.
“I mean, we’re battling,” defensive coordinator Jay Sawvel said. “We’ve got one guy who was probably one of our better ones in camp that’s out, in Coney, and you’ve got the other [suspension] situation.”
Hardin and Buford have missed the past two games for an unspecified violation of team rules. They remain part of a Minneapolis Police Department open investigation, so it’s unclear when they could be reinstated.
Penn State ranks 66th in the nation in passing offense (237.3 yards per game) with a first-year starter at quarterback, in sophomore Trace McSorley, and one of the Big Ten’s top wide receivers, in Chris Godwin.
Heading into Big Ten play, the inexperienced Gophers cornerbacks are trying to learn fast.
“We’re getting there,” Sawvel said. “But we’re nowhere close to where we need to be right now. So we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Tai’yon Devers, the freshman defensive end who has forced three fumbles with sacks, is out for the Penn State game because of an ankle injury. But Devers will be back before long, and the Gophers are thrilled with his output so far.
“You go through a whole year, some guys don’t ever cause three fumbles that play 800 snaps,” Sawvel said. “Tai’yon has probably played 25 all year. I guess he’s got a good percentage. He just has so much more upside development, growth, all those things to do.”
The Gophers pulled a potential redshirt from freshman linebacker Thomas Barber against Colorado State last week, playing him on special teams.
“We sat down last week and went through the special teams depth chart,” Claeys aid. “Everybody in charge of the special teams said they would take Thomas Barber. That’s 20 snaps a game. He plays awfully well on defense, too. We’ve had more time this week to get him prepared defensively, to get him more defensive snaps.”
• Claeys told KFAN (100.3-FM) that linebacker Nick Rallis could return from his elbow injury against Penn State.
• Wide receiver Rashad Still (broken clavicle) is doing drills in practice but hasn’t been cleared for contact. He was injured Sept. 1 with an expected recovery time of four to five weeks.
• Tight end Brandon Lingen suffered the same injury as Still in the Sept. 10 game against Indiana State, so he’s about nine days behind Still in the recovery process.
• Jaquarius Landrews, a safety from Copiah-Lincoln (Miss.) Community College, has officially flipped his verbal commitment from Mississippi State to the Gophers.