Jack Gibbens Looks Like an FBS Linebacker No Longer Trapped in an FCS Uniform

Photo: ANTHONY SOUFFLE – anthony.souffle@startribune.com

Writing it again feels like overkill but it’s difficult to start a blog about new Minnesota Gophers linebacker Jack Gibbens, and what he means to the 2021 defense, without first mentioning why he was brought to Dinkytown for his graduate season of eligibility. The former FCS leading tackler is on campus because last year’s Minnesota linebacker group was a pile of steaming hot garbage and heavily contributed to one of the worst run defenses in school history.

To help repair their broken down defense, PJ Fleck brought three transfers in on that side of the ball. They all have one year remaining of eligibility, and all of them will play up the middle of the defense. But of the three, linebacker Jack Gibbens came in with the least amount of hype. That’s what happens, no matter what the numbers or highlight tapes look like, when you’re a grad-transfer from the FCS ranks.

But, he does look damn good when you rewind it back.

Can Gibbens Hang with the DI Big Boys?

Still, there’s a reason why most FCS players are FCS players. The same goes for DI Power-5 athletes. Just about every single power five DI football player is a physical freak. These dudes are the best of the best footballers in the world, at their age (18-21).

When I got onto the practice field last week, however, and finally got an up close look at the Minnesota Gopher football players for the first time in two years, one thing about Jack immediately stuck out. This dude is just as big, if not bigger, than any other linebacker on this roster.

That’s something I didn’t expect from an FCS player, no matter how many tackles and awards he had racked up. Defensive coordinator, Joe Rossi, had some of the same feelings.

How Often Will We See Gibbens on the Field?

When the whistle blows, Gibbens is everywhere, helping to lead a defense that’s been ahead of the Gopher offense during most of the practice competition that’s been open to media members. It’s clear that he’s picked up the scheme quickly and hasn’t missed a beat jumping up from a lower level of competition.

Nothing is guaranteed until the Gophers take the field at Huntington Bank Stadium in a couple of weeks vs the Ohio State Buckeyes but, so far in practice, Gibbens has seen the field with the #1 defense more than anyone outside of Mariano Sori-Marin.

Much like his defensive coordinator, PJ Fleck likes what he sees so far from Jack Gibbens.

Very instinctual, he’s very smart. He makes everyone else around him better and he doesn’t have bad days. He has hard days, but he doesn’t have a bad day. What I love about him and what he brings, and why I feel like this team is so fun to coach is when they get out there, they love being out there. They love to practice. They love to play the game of football. That’s hard to find. I’ve had less than a handful of teams that love to go out there and practice. And he brings it [too]. He can’t wait to get out on the practice field.

We expected a lot from him. He’s brought a lot and he’s exactly what we thought he was. I’m glad he’s a part of our football team.

PJ Fleck on Grad Transfer Jack Gibbens

The true test will come just 13 days from today, when the Buckeyes come to town.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan