3. Troy Stoudermire | CB | Senior | 5'10” 200 lbs. G TK Solo TFL INT PD FF 4 24 20 3 2 3 0 Photo credit: Marisa Wojcik / Minnesota Daily
Troy Stoudermire walks into 2012 as the leader of the Gophers’ defensive backfield, if not the defense as a whole.
Defensive coordinator Tracey Claeys has an affinity for leaving his cornerbacks on an island, particularly the primary outside corner, or “boundary” corner in the Gophers defense. At the onset of 2011, that position belonged to Stoudermire. Highlighting his agility and also his strength, Stoudermire could play press coverage on an island without getting beaten like a rented mule, allowing a safety to cheat up in run coverage, take the place of a blitzing linebacker or help in deep zone.
If you remember the USC game, Robert Woods was able to get free on bubble screens and slants early in the game, taking advantage of man coverage and at other times, a soft cushion when he was lined up against Brock Vereen. In the second half though, Claeys was able to disguise coverages between man and zone, confusing Matt Barkley a bit, as he brought a cornerback on a blitz or cheated a safety toward the box. Stoudermire’s ability allowed Claeys to try and hide a glaring hole at safety across from senior Kim Royston. However, Stoudermire snapped a bone in his left forearm against Miami (Ohio) and wasn’t able to make it through the first quarter of the following week’s game against North Dakota State University. It was the last he played in 2011 and the thin defensive secondary unraveled thereafter, before rallying a bit near the end of the year.*
* - I should take a moment to say the pass defense wasn’t the biggest problem in 2011. On passing downs, the Gophers ranked 45 out of all 120 teams in Football Outsiders’ defensive S&P ranking. The Passing S&P as a whole was 63rd, while the rushing S&P ranked 93. The defense as a whole ranked 89th. Granted, the Gophers played from behind a lot and didn’t have nearly as many passing downs as rushing downs, but it is an important distinction nonetheless. MV also pointed these statistics out in his 2012 defensive back preview.
So what is S&P? S&P is a stat combination, similar to OPS in baseball. It is literally defined as the combination of a defense’s efficiency (“Success Rate”) and its explosiveness (“Equivalent Points Per Play). Taken simply, a team that has a good defense stops offenses a lot and doesn’t give up a lot of big scoring plays. Here is a more in-depth definition: A defensive success rate is defined by the percentage of plays targeting a defense in which the offense did not have a “successful” play. Equivalent Points Per Play gives each yard line a point value based on the average amount of points that a team can expect to score from that position on the field. The actual stats are then given a point value compared to that assigned point value. For more information about these terms, check out the Football Outsiders glossary.
When Stoudermire went down, the cornerbacks who stepped in were not able to play press coverage as well without the help of a safety. However, the run defense often needed an extra defender in the box and, well, you should be able to see the dominoes starting to fall.
Although the Gophers have brought in three junior college cornerbacks to provide depth, everyone knows who is No. 1. The better Stoudermire is on the corner, locking down opponents’ best receiving targets, the better the defense will be as a whole. He has returned this spring fully healthy, reportedly looking strong throughout spring and fall practice.
I have to admit I’m surprised to see Stoudermire in this position. In September 2010 he was suspended indefinitely by then-coach Tim Brewster. Stoudermire made a Facebook post about leaving the team, but was reinstated and moved back to defense, where he had started his Gopher career in 2008. Midway through his freshman year in 2008, Brewster moved the speedy corner to wide receiver, in order to capitalize on his playmaking ability. He continued as a kick returner and wide receiver in 2009.
(Important footnote: It was this year against Iowa when Jedd Fisch and Brewster famously called for the Weber to Stoudermire jump ball on the two-yard line on third down, in the fourth quarter. The 5-foot, 10-inch Stoudermire was unable to reel in the pass.)
As Stoudermire’s progress at receiver seemed stagnant, he instantly responded to playing cornerback near the end of 2010 and entered 2011 as the unquestioned No. 1. After last year’s season-ending injury, the NCAA granted him a fifth-year, and he’s now the leader of a young defensive secondary.
If Troy Stoudermire does nothing else in his Gopher career, he will at least be remembered for several years for his brutal fumble-causing hit on Marcus Coker in 2010, a play that guaranteed the Floyd of Rosedale would return to Minnesota. The hit put an exclamation point on the end of the Gophers’ three-year winless streak in rivalry trophy games.
In 2012, the Gophers need him to display more of that flair for the big moment.