12. Ben Perry | DE | Sophomore (RS) | 6'5” 241 lbs. G TK SOLO TFL SK 12 15 6 2.5 1.0
When a team unveils new jerseys, the stars are obviously going to be those modeling the new threads. If the Twins were to show off new uniforms, they wouldn’t trot out Matt Capps. Well, the Twins probably would trot out Capps, because they’ve pretty much shown an inability to un-invite him from everything including spring training, high leverage pitching situations and the bullpen as a whole. They are willing to trot him out for everything. OK, bad example, but the point still resonates. A team isn’t going to bring out a journeyman back-up to drum up goodwill at what is essentially an expansive dog and pony show.
When the Gophers went through those motions earlier this year, quarterback MarQueis Gray was obviously front and center. Ed Olson, leader of the offensive line, was there. Troy Stoudermire, who had recently been awarded a fifth-year of eligibility, was another one of the players, as well were other defensive leaders and seniors Keanon Cooper and Mike Rallis. Senior receiver Brandon Green and senior tight end John Rabe rounded out the group.
Oh, and on the far right, stood sophomore defensive end Ben Perry.
Feel free to tell me that I’m reading too much into Perry’s inclusion – by all means, I likely am – but Coach Jerry Kill could have gone with senior D.L. Wilhite to keep the upperclassmen theme going, he could have tabbed Michael Amaefula if he wanted a more heralded, young defensive end.
But he picked Perry.
I think there’s something to that, or at least something beyond “Well, Ben was in town at the time, a couple of the d-line guys were sick and then the equipment guys misspelled ‘Amaefula,’ so Ben was up there.”
Perry and his fellow freshman defensive end Amaefula emerged from fall practice last year at the top of the depth chart, thereby earning the chance to be thrown directly into the fire of Division I college football. Perry played through a wrist injury and improved as the year continued, as did the defensive line as a whole. Some faint praise exists in that though, because the line had an awful start to the season. During a three game stretch against New Mexico State, Miami (Ohio) and North Dakota State, the Gophers registered one sack for a loss of four yards.
Perry ended the season with only one sack, so there’s obviously room to improve, and as things stand, it seems that the Gophers coaching staff is expecting him to do just that. Again, he was pushed into Big Ten play before he was completely ready and should gain another 10 to 15 pounds of muscle.
While Kill didn’t recruit Perry to Minnesota, Perry seemingly fits the profile of what Kill and defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys like to do at defensive end – rush the passer. A two-star recruit out of Texas, Perry resembles the build of six-foot, five-inches tall Jake Coffman, six-foot, three-inches tall Sean Progar and six-foot, four-inches tall Stephen Neal, defensive ends who played for Kill and Claeys at Northern Illinois. It’s worth noting that Kill’s good friend and coaching mentor Gary Patterson also routinely employs tall, speedy defensive ends; Patterson famously moved high school running backs Jerry Hughes and Tommy Blake over to defensive end.
Since Willie VanDeSteeg totaled 10.5 sacks in 2008, the Gophers haven’t had a defensive lineman tally more than three sacks in a season. (There is an exception among linebackers; the late Gary Tinsley had four sacks last year.) Perry has been tabbed as a pass rushing specialist, now he will need to deliver. At 241 pounds, he’s going to be undersized in run coverage, giving up some 60 pounds to most Big Ten offensive linemen.
Much is being expected of defensive tackles Ra’Shede Hageman and junior college transfer Roland Johnson, but there’s little room for ineptitude among the group. Run defense will be an issue for the Gophers in 2012 and if Perry is earning his spot, he will need to prove it through his pass rush, while he gradually learns the art of identifying the run.