Senior safety Tyler Nubin has something new to show opposing Big Ten offenses this season as he hopes to continue the Gophers' pipeline of defensive backs into the NFL.
Coming off a career year, the 6-2, 210-pound Illinois native added more to his game to prove he belongs amongst the best in the country.
Nubin insists his biggest area of improvement is tackling. That's surprising since he already ranked third on the Gophers with 52 tackles, along with a team-high three interceptions last season.
"In the spring as well as throughout the summer, that was something you guys could see took a big leap," Nubin said. "Attacking the football and just going to get the football is something I'm going to really focus on this season."
The last defensive back known for his "attacking" style that played for the Gophers was current Tampa Bay Buccaneers free safety Antoine Winfield Jr., who was selected in the second round of the 2020 draft.
Winfield functioned as a mentor during Nubin's freshman season in 2019. Not only did Winfield display how to ferociously attack the ball carrier, but he was an avid student of the game.
Now the younger players are watching how Nubin leads by example on and off the field.
"[Nubin] has been an instrumental part of what we've done," Gophers coach P.J. Fleck said at Big Ten Media Days. "We did a tape the other day for our team and showed them the big plays from last year, and Tyler Nubin was around all of those. … It's great to have Tyler here."
The lone starter gone in the secondary from last season is cornerback Coney Durr, who started 43 games in his career. Transfers Beanie Bishop (Western Kentucky) and Ryan Stapp (Abilene Christian) are likely competing for his spot.
Nubin and fellow senior Jordan Howden are in command at safety. Sophomore Justin Walley has breakout potential at the other cornerback position.
In the spring, Nubin said Gophers defensive coordinator Joe Rossi's players had more speed than he's seen since joining the team. There were numerous tipped passes and interceptions in practice.
"It's more than I've ever seen in the three to four years I've been here," Nubin said. "We have to take that and try to elevate that in fall camp and bring it to the season."
Entering the 2022 season, Nubin might be one of the most underrated safeties in college football, not even cracking the top 50 on one NFL draft list. Cue the sleep emojis on social media.
The Gophers have sent several DBs to the professional ranks in recent years, including Benjamin St-Juste, drafted by the Washington Commanders last year.
Nubin earned defensive MVP honors with eight tackles and a sack in the U's victory against West Virginia in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl last season, but he didn't leave school early for the NFL draft.
Becoming a tackling machine might help Nubin attract even more attention from scouts. Former Baltimore Ravens safety and Hall of Famer Ed Reed, one of the hardest hitters in NFL history, is one of Nubin's favorite players to watch.
"I've always loved Ed Reed and his ability to keenly diagnose plays and know what the other team is doing before they even do it," Nubin said. "Just that ability to know what position you have to be in to make the play."