No. 144: Mike Rallis, LB, No. 26, Minnesota
2011 Stats: 83 tackles, 5.0 TFL, 1.5 sacks
Rallis steps in as the unquestioned leader of the Gopher defense after the graduation of top tacklers Kim Royston and Gary Tinsley (RIP). He's moving from OLB to Tinsley's position of MLB, and he has added 10 to 15 pounds of "good weight" in the process to move closer to a playing weight of 245 pounds—and has reportedly not lost speed in the process.
Rallis was third on the team in tackles in 2011; if he's healthy, he'll dominate that column this year.
This will be Rallis' first year at middle linebacker, so even though it's coming with an entire offseason of preparation, it's still going to be a different role and there'll be some adjustment in terms of positioning in zone coverage or identifying matchup responsibilities on the fly.
That comes with position changes for everybody, so this isn't a Rallis-specific problem, but it's still something he'll have to adjust to as he leads the defense.
Minnesota has got to improve its overall defense, which was 77th in yardage allowed and 93rd in points allowed, and in the standard 4-3 defense, that improvement necessarily starts with the MLB.
Jerry Kill is a severely underrated coach in the Big Ten, and if he gets the rest of the defensive unit clicking, look for big improvements across the board here.