ILB (and quite frankly all the LBs) always confuse me a bit. We basically have recruited every single LB and said “he can play inside or outside” and then we have to guess where they are going to play. It’s pretty obvious that heading into fall camp the top 4 were Honas, Reimer, Kolarevic, and Henrich. With Honas being out for the season with a torn knee, we lose our second leading tackler and leading sack man from 2020. That’s a big blow as he was really coming into his own.
But let’s talk about what we do have. Many people forget that Nick Henrich in the last two games of the year for 2020, he led our team in tackles both games. He really started to play well down the stretch. He is going to get a ton of snaps for our defense. You also have Luke Reimer, who only played in 6 games due to injury but was 3rd on our team in TFLs. The kid is extremely instinctive, and quite honestly when you watch him play, his burst and explosiveness set him apart from guys like Honas, Miller, and Henrich.
Reimer lacks a bit of the length typically needed for the 3-4, and was a bit undersized last year. I showed this video, but he’s the top ILB who gets cracked down on by the WR:
If you remember back to when Minnesota drilled us 34-7 in 2019, PJ Fleck was quoted as saying this:
I don’t think that will be the case this year. Reimer and Henrich are much more athletic than those 2019 guys. And then you have Northern Iowa transfer Chris Kolarevic coming in. He blew up spring training with his test results, and he very well could sneak into starting for us. I will also tell you if he stays healthy, he has a very good chance at being our leading tackler.
And really that’s the biggest issue with our ILB core. Henrich blew his shoulder out right away and has dealt with nagging injuries, Reimer missed a couple games due to injuries, and our freshmen Kpai and Gbayor both are out significant time with injuries. I love who we have, but with Honas already out, we need to stay healthy here.
Garrett Snodgrass will be our fourth LB for the season who can definitely fill a role, but also you’ll see all over the field on special teams. He has some good guys that he is learning from. Eva Mauga-Clements had a rough first drive in the spring game, but I still think you could find a role for him in a blitz package situation. If you remember me mentioning, Randy Gregory had a special blitz package designed for him called “Spinner”
You see Gregory playing ILB in that clip and choosing a spot to rush, creating pressure and an incompletion.
After that you have Jackson Hannah and Seth Malcom rounding out your ILBs on scholarship. Malcom reminds me a bit of Nash Hutmacher, where coming from a lower high school football division, he just needs some time. But I do think he has a high ceiling. With that said, guys like Kpai will have something to say about it and Ruud will always reload the position.