The Minnesota Golden Gophers’ released their depth chart this morning for Saturday’s matchup with Ohio State. The most notable change was 6’9’’, 400-lb. true freshman Daniel Faalele starting at right tackle in place of redshirt sophomore Sam Schlueter.
Faalele was inserted at right tackle in the third quarter against Iowa after Hawkeyes defensive end Anthony Nelson abused Schlueter for three sacks in the first half. He had previously only seen in action in the Gophers’ season opener against New Mexico State, as the coaching staff had hoped to limit his participation to four games, preserving his redshirt.
Well, plans have changed. Thirteen sacks allowed in five games will do that.
Size certainly isn’t a problem for Faalele, but his inexperience extends well beyond that of a typical true freshman. Originally from Australia, Faalele enrolled in the IMG Academy — where he played with fellow Gopher freshmen Zack Annexstad and Curtis Dunlap, Jr. — as a junior to learn the game of football. He spent his first season there strictly practicing and did not see game action.
There is no question he has all of the physical tools to be a dominant offensive tackle, but he’ll need time to develop and master the nuances of the position.