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Five Gophers That Will Rise in the Fall, No. 2: Theiren Cockran

 

 

 

By Joe Perovich | KFAN.com

... and Taylor Martinez has been doing the Ice Bucket Challenge ever since.

Minnesota's 6-foot-6, 255 pound defensive end Theiren Cockran set a handful of historically relevant marks in 2013 -- even some lacking in historical context.

 

 

Cockran entered the 2013 season as an underclassman with zero career starts.

He exited the season with 7.5 sacks (third in the B1G), 10 tackles for loss (10th in the B1G), and the Big Ten conference lead in forced fumbles per game (four in 13 games).

The Gophers have not had an individual jar that many footballs loose in a single season since... well, we're not really sure.

The mothership, GopherSports.com, reveals Cockran's four forced fumbles are the most by a single player since at least the 2003 season (no records listed on forced fumbles prior to that season). Sports-Reference.com, known for its volume of metrics, only displays data on forced fumbles from 2005 onward.

In short, Cockran can be described as a wretched presence that makes habitual trips to the quarterback. Opponents committed to execution fly in the face of his goal: disarray.

It's difficult to place his sophomore season under a lens of critical examination when the exact infrequency of some of the things he does for a defense are unavailable.

So! What we do know in regard to the turnovers he forced will have to do for the time being:

  • This bullet point is useless. It's just here to let the above sink in.

Ra'Shede Hageman was the defensive line's standalone leader for talent and execution last season, but his graduation and departure to the NFL meant that that torch would require passing.

Cockran, the shoe-in successor, is a redshirt junior that will leaned on like the senior leader his age is indicative of.

The Gophers graduated a pair of seniors from from last year's defensive line, changed two player's positions since last Friday (both affecting the defensive line, more so Harold Legania in terms of 2014 DL depth), and recent reports indicate starting left DE Michael Amaefula's status for the season opener is uncertain.

Minnesota certainly doesn't have a shortage of talent at defensive line (or experience, since those accepting new starters roles have seen the field frequently in Claeys and Phelps' ever-churning rotation). Yet, it's never good when one of your starters in the trenches sustains a lower leg injury, as paving is integral to a linemen's job. Gophers coaches are confident he'll be a full participant soon, but it'll be interesting to see if he is held back longer to minimize the chance of reaggravating the injury.

Roles and statuses will continue to be ironed out before next Thursday's opener, and fluid situations only continue to further emphasize the importance of a stable force like Theiren Cockran.

And most exciting of all? His physical tools and two years of eligibility remaining ensure his ceiling is his own to determine.

 

Joe Perovich covers Minnesota Sports, namely Gophers and Timberwolves, for KFAN.com. Feel free to leave comments and questions regarding this post in the space provided below. For Gophers or Timberwolves updates and news, follow Joe on Twitter: @JoePerovich.

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