Gophers to miss key linebacker Cody Lindenberg against Nebraska

The new process of the Big Ten sharing availability reports for the teams in each conference game came with some big news for the Gophers on Thursday.

Starting linebacker Cody Lindenberg was listed as out for the season opener against Nebraska at Huntington Bank Stadium.

Lindenberg was deemed a game-day decision and the training staff made the call to hold him out, a U spokesman said. The reason is unknown; head coach P.J. Fleck will address the absence postgame.

Lindenberg is the leading returning tackler from 2022. He had 71 tackles in all 13 games last year and was considered the leader of the linebackers and overall defense for 2023 after the graduation of Mariano Sori-Marin in 2022.

One of the key position battles in fall camp was who would step up and start next to Lindenberg. Now there are two uncertainties. The candidates have been Devon Williams, Ryan Selig and Maverick Baronowski. Selig played 45 games (23 starts) at Western Michigan before transferring to Minnesota, but Williams and Baronowski have played a combined 12 games (0 starts).

Nebraska has two players out: starting linebacker Nick Henrich and backup linebacker Jimari Butler.

The U listed eight more players as out for the game: defensive back Craig McDonald, tight end Jameson Geers, linebacker Derik LeCaptain, defensive tackle Darnell Jefferies, linebacker Lucas Finnessy, defensive lineman Haden Schwartz, offensive lineman Jackson Rushmeyer and tight end Sam Peters.

Receiver Chris Autman-Bell, who is coming off a torn ACL last September, is listed as questionable to play against the Cornhuskers. Backup kicker David Kemp is also questionable.

The Gophers requested a two-transfer waiver for McDonald to be eligible immediatley this fall, but the NCAA denied it along with others in similar situations across the country. The U then filed an appeal and submitted more information on McDonald’s behalf. As of Tuesday, the U had not heard a decision on McDonald’s status.

Geers had his right leg immobilized during the open practice on Aug. 15. LeCaptain, a key special-teams player, had his elbow in a splint last week. Possible reasons for the other absences are unknown.

Johnson impresses

True freshman offensive lineman Greg Johnson of Prior Lake impressed during preseason camp and might be the rare player to play in his first year.

“He is that good as a true freshman walking in these doors,” head coach P.J. Fleck said Aug. 28.

The Gophers anticipate playing more than five offensive linemen during the opener against Nebraska, and Johnson, who is listed at 6-foot-6 and 320 pounds, is expected to enter the mix at some point this season.


Besides Thursday, the Gophers have had three other sellouts during Fleck’s tenure at Minnesota (since 2017): the Penn State and Wisconsin games in 2019 and the Ohio State opener of the 2021 season.

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