6 Gophers football players receive Athlon recognition

Published 5:08 pm Monday, May 28, 2018

Athlon Sports has named six Gophers to its Big Ten Football 2018 All-Conference Team. This preseason announcement is a prediction by the magazine on how players will perform in 2018.

Senior running back Rodney Smith earned a spot on the second-team as an all-purpose player. He ran for 977 yards with three touchdowns last season. He also caught 17 passes for 107 yards and returned 14 kicks for 363 yards and a touchdown.

Smith’s 3,850 career all-purpose yards ranks eighth in school history and he only needs 1,260 yards needed to break Darrell Thompson’s school record of 5,109 all-purpose yards.

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Tyler Johnson is a third-team selection on offense while Carter Coughlin, Thomas Barber and Antoine Winfield Jr. are all third-team defensive selections.

Johnson had a breakout campaign as a sophomore in 2017. In 10 games, he led Minnesota with 35 receptions (31.8 percent of team total) for 677 yards (44.7 percent of team total) and seven touchdowns (77.7 percent of team total). His 677 receiving yards were the fifth most ever by a Minnesota sophomore, while his seven receiving touchdowns were the second most ever by a Minnesota sophomore.

Coughlin started all 12 games last season as a rush end. He recorded 37 tackles including a team leading 11.5 for a loss and 6.5 sacks.

Barber finished first on the team with 115 tackles (76 solo), forced three fumbles, recovered two fumbles and recorded one interception. He recorded double-digit tackles in seven Big Ten games. He was the first Gopher to reach 100 tackles since 2015. He was the first sophomore to do so since 1997.

Winfield tore it up as a freshman and was on pace to do so again last year before getting sidelined with an injury for the final eight games. He notched seven tackles including a sack, made two pass breakups and blocked a field goal against Buffalo in the season opener last year.

As a freshman he played in 12 games and started nine. He recorded 52 tackles, broke up three passes, recovered one fumble and returned one interception 82 yards for a touchdown (fifth longest interception return in program history.)