6. Mike Rallis | LB | Senior | 6'2” 245 lbs. G TK Solo TFL SK FF PD 12 83 53 5 1.5 0 2 Photo courtesy of the University of Minnesota Athletic Department
Mike Rallis will start the 2012 season as the Gophers middle linebacker, moving from the outside, where he played for the last two years. Rallis has been a solid player in his career and tallied the third-most tackles on the team in 2011, the most of any returning player. He has grown into a decent linebacker from defensive back, his original position.
First, the good. He’s a dedicated and tireless worker, a player who became a scholarship starter after coming to campus as a preferred walk-on. It’s become regular for him to impress after his offseason workouts; he bulked up once to become a linebacker and now has added another 10 or so pounds to move inside. His acclimation during the spring earned praise from teammate Spencer Reeves and also the player he is replacing, the late Gary Tinsley.
“He’s never played there, but he’s smart enough,” Tinsley told 1500ESPN’s Nate Sandell in March, weeks before Tinlsey’s untimely death. “He’s gotten way bigger. He looks like a middle linebacker.”
But will Rallis be able to seamlessly transition to middle linebacker? As Reeves told 1500ESPN, Rallis probably knows the defense as well as the coaching staff, but Rallis’s problem won’t be knowing where to go, it will be getting there. Will he be able to shed blocks, something he had trouble with as an outside linebacker?
In an ideal world, Brendan Beal would be crushing running backs like pop cans for the Gophers and Rallis would be solid on the outside. In an ideal world, Beal’s knee ligaments wouldn’t be held together with masking tape and wishes granted from pennies thrown into park fountains. Of course, we do not live in an ideal world. We live in a world where last year Purdue – PURDUE! - went to a bowl, Michigan beat the Gophers by nearly 60 points and Wisconsin went to their second consecutive Rose Bowl. Beal has had to deal with several serious, season-long injuries: a torn anterior cruciate ligament in 2008, neck and elbow injuries in 2009 and another knee injury in 2011. To add to the litany of awful luck, he separated his shoulder in his last high school game. Seriously, I don’t know how Beal has the resolve to come back to the football field. I hope he is able to finish at the University with a degree and find success in his eventual career. It’s wishful thinking to expect much from Beal on the field.
* Note: I wrote this a few weeks ago, when Beal’s status was still unknown. He has since been medically cleared for practice, although it’s still unknown what toll his injuries have had on his body. If he can play, I’d expect him to regularly rotate through a few snaps, but I still wouldn’t expect him to be the sole contributor at middle linebacker.
If anyone can make the transition from outside linebacker to middle, Rallis has the right make-up to do so. Again, he’s a dedicated player who senses the importance of senior leadership. More importantly, if he can’t make the transition, the roster is awfully thin at this point of players who could step in. If Minnesota’s defense can continue the improvement it made during the second-half of last season, Rallis will figure to be a large part of it.