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As the Gophers prepared for the Pinstripe Bowl against Syracuse in December, senior linebacker Mariano Sori-Marin, knowing his collegiate career was about to end, decided to deputize Cody Lindenberg.

"We got to bowl prep last year, and Mariano says to him, 'I'm done. I'm done talking to the group. You gotta use this as your practice,' '' Gophers defensive coordinator Joe Rossi remembered. "And so, Cody got a little practice with his big brother looking over his shoulder, and he's picked it up and done a really good job with it.''

Little brother Lindenberg now is the leader of the linebackers corps as the Gophers enter Saturday's spring game at their indoor practice facility. The junior-to-be from Anoka earned a starting job midway through the 2022 season after coming back from a 2021 knee injury that limited him to three games.

He ranked second on the team with 71 tackles last year, 18 fewer than Sori-Marin, and will be counted on heavily for both productivity and voice in 2023 with veterans Braelen Oliver and Donald Willis leaving via the transfer portal.

"He told me it's gonna be my room next year, and I've gotta take responsibility,'' Lindenberg said of Sori-Marin.

During spring practice, Lindenberg has been essential for young linebackers like Maverick Baranowski and Joey Gerlach. Western Michigan transfer Ryan Selig adds the experience of playing in 45 career games and collecting 154 tackles, so Lindenberg won't be alone in setting the tone.

"By nature, he wants to lead; he wants to set the example,'' Rossi said of Lindenberg. "He's a guy that does things the right way. He's done a really nice job with it. He's really found his voice.''

That voice might sound a lot like Sori-Marin's and that of linebacker Thomas Barber before him. Rossi coaches the team's linebackers, too, so the standard has been set high.

Before the 6-3, 235-pound Lindenberg could lead, he had to develop his game. He saw six games of action in the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season before suffering the 2021 injury. His steady improvement last year included an eight-tackle, one-sack effort against Nebraska, an eight-tackle game against Iowa, a seven-tackle outing at Wisconsin and an 11-tackle showing in the bowl win over Syracuse before leaving the game with a leg injury.

"A big part of that was just getting comfortable with being out on the field,'' Lindenberg said. "… It's getting to a point where you don't have to think because as soon as you have to think, it slows you down for a split-second. And that could be a split-second that you need to either make the play or not make the play.''

Experience leads to players being able to read and react, and Lindenberg wants to instill that in his young teammates with film work outside of practice.

"It's a very, very hard-working group of guys, especially the younger guys,'' Lindenberg said. "They're in there every day, and we always talked about the unrequired work that's going to separate us.''

Gophers senior safety Tyler Nubin appreciates what he's seen from Lindenberg's leadership.

"He's one of those guys that really cares about the game, so he puts his all into it,'' Nubin said. "Guys see that and respect that.''