Along with the release of the new 10-game conference schedule, Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren also announced that programs have been cleared to start fall camp this week. Minnesota will need to replace three starters on offense, so we take a look at what the initial depth chart might look like as the Gophers open camp.
Starter(s): Tanner Morgan
Backup(s): Zack Annexstad
When was the last time the Gophers entered fall camp without a question mark at quarterback? Probably when Mitch Leidner was still on the roster, but that feels like ages ago. Tanner Morgan rewrote the record backs at Minnesota last season and he’ll be back under center this season. Zack Annexstad missed all of last season while recovering from a foot injury suffered during fall camp, but he is healthy now and ready to compete.
Starter(s): Mohamed Ibrahim
Backup(s): Bryce Williams, Cam Wiley, and Trey Potts
Minnesota needs a pair and a spare at running back, and Mohamed Ibrahim will almost certainly be one half of the pair. The other two roles are up for grabs, and the competition in fall camp should be fun as the Gophers are loaded with young talent at the position. Bryce Williams has the most game experience, but redshirt freshmen Cam Wiley and Trey Potts impressed last season even in limited action. I wouldn’t count out redshirt freshman Jason Williamson, now recovered from an ACL tear, or true freshman Ky Thomas either.
Starter(s): Chris Autman-Bell, Demetrius Douglas, and Seth Green
Backup(s): Daniel Jackson, Mike Brown-Stephens, and Douglas Emilien
With the graduation of Tyler Johnson coupled with Rashod Bateman’s decision to opt out of the 2020 season, the wide receiver position becomes a big question mark for the Gophers. Chris Autman-Bell managed to make a name for himself even in the shadow of Johnson and Bateman, but the rest of the group will now be asked to step up and show what they can do. Demetrius Douglas and Seth Green are two upperclassmen for whom it may be now or never, as a group of talented freshmen arrive on campus to challenge for playing time.
Starter(s): Jake Paulson
Backup(s): Ko Kieft, Bryce Witham, and Brevyn Spann-Ford
I’ve already declared this unit perhaps the most well-rounded position group on the roster, and I stand by that assessment. I’m also looking forward to the new co-offensive coordinators possibly involving the tight ends more in the passing game.
Starter(s): Sam Schlueter
Backup(s): Blaise Andries
After a sophomore season that saw him losing his starting right tackle spot to a true freshman midseason, Sam Schlueter came roaring back in 2019 to become perhaps the most consistent Minnesota offensive lineman among the starting five. He started all 13 games last season at left tackle and was perhaps the most improved player on offense.
The depth at either offensive tackle position is... not where it needs to be, from my vantage point. Jason Dickson was the second-string left tackle last season, but he retired from football in February. Redshirt freshman J.J. Guedet is the most promising underclassman offensive tackle on the roster, but the Gophers need more than one waiting in the wings. For now, Blaise Andries will likely slide over to left tackle if Schlueter is sidelined.
Starter(s): Blaise Andries
Backup(s): Axel Ruschmeyer
Blaise Andries is the best offensive lineman on the roster, in my opinion. He has started games at right guard, left guard, right tackle, and left tackle over the last two seasons at Minnesota. Andries is easily the most valuable member of the Minnesota Movers, and I expect he could be the first Gophers’ offensive lineman to be drafted in more than a decade.
But as with most of the other spots on the offensive line, depth is also an issue at guard. Axel Ruschmeyer was second-string left guard last season, but he is a walk-on who clawed his way onto the depth chat through hard work in practice.
Starter(s): Conner Olson
Backup(s): John Michael Schmitz
This is the most secure spot on the offensive line, because John Michael Schmitz would more than likely be a starter at many other Power 5 programs. He was an unsung hero on the offensive line last season, stepping in and holding his own whenever the Gophers needed to shift starting center Conner Olson over to a vacant guard spot.
Starter(s): Curtis Dunlap
Backup(s): Austin Beier
Curtis Dunlap struggled through the non-conference portion of the 2019 schedule — as did much of the offensive line — but he eventually found his footing in his first year as a starter. He started 12 games last year, missing only the Iowa game due to injury.
Starter(s): Daniel Faalele
Backup(s): Blaise Andries
Whether Daniel Faalele is the starting right tackle in the season opener will depend on the work he has done since spring practice was cancelled. At the time, he was working his way back from the injury he suffered against Wisconsin, and it was evident from the practice open to the public that Faalele was facing an uphill battle in getting back into game shape. If he isn’t ready to go, you’ll see Andries out at right tackle, with Olson sliding to right guard and Schmitz starting at center.
Converted defensive lineman Nate Umlor was the second-string right tackle last season, but he transferred to Grand Valley State in the offseason.