By Joe Perovich | KFAN.com
*Not to be misunderstood as “the five best players on the Gophers”. Some of them might be included in such a list, but others not. This preview series will consist of five articles about five Gophers players that will make the biggest jump in 2014, by my estimation. It could be a player who’s been prominent in past years that will make an even bigger jump this year, or a player that has flown under-the-radar and will be a well-known commodity by season’s end.
No. 3 – Today: Briean Boddy-Calhoun, CB, RS Jr.
No. 2 – Thursday
No. 1 – Saturday
In a run-oriented conference, the Minnesota Golden Gophers pass defense has spent the past two seasons daring opponents to throw. In 2012, the team's pass defense was 12th-ranked nationally in fewest pass yards allowed. Last season, they ranked 35th overall.
So, why weren't the Gophers one of the 50 least passed against teams in the nation either season, especially in a conference that is heavily committed to the run?
It hardly makes sense, but with Eric Murray, a fully healthy Derrick Wells, Cedric Thompson and the return of Briean Boddy-Calhoun, Minnesota may finally laud the recognition a Top-40 pass defense should.
Let's talk about redshirt junior Briean Boddy-Calhoun, who played just one game the entire 2013 season -- the season opener versus UNLV, where he started at cornerback opposite Murray.
One week later, Boddy-Calhoun tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee at New Mexico State. He missed the team's final 11 games, but when the year concluded: Boddy-Calhoun was tied for first in Gophers secondary interceptions, and was the only member in the team's secondary to score all season.
Six months after ACL reconstruction surgery, Boddy-Calhoun was out on the field for Gophers spring practice and getting live reps.
Both Minnesota coaches and Boddy-Calhoun himself have noted that the cornerback's speed and quickness have indeed traveled the long, winding road back to normalcy. He has been working with the second unit on defense for much of fall camp - likely for building confidence in his body and its limits without worrying about matching up on some of the Gophers best weapons on offense concurrently.
Boddy-Calhoun played in all 13 games during his first year with Minnesota in 2012 after transferring from Coffeyville Community College (KS). He's experienced, and thus, doesn't need continuous repetition with all of the roles and assignments asked of his position in Tracy Claeys' defense.
The lion's share of focus can center on Boddy-Calhoun's physical health, and all reports indicate the 5-foot-11, 190 pound cornerback's body is at or near peak condition.
If true, are there a wealth of teams boasting "three-deep" defensive back depth charts on par with/surpassing the talent level and experience of Murray, Boddy-Calhoun and Wells?
And considering Gophers opponents are likely to be throwing away from Murray, as they did in the second half of 2013, Boddy-Calhoun's season is setting up to be ripe with opportunities that could manifest in a very successful comeback season.