With Blaise Andries’ announcement on Sunday that he will declare for the NFL Draft after the upcoming bowl game, the forecast for the Minnesota Golden Gophers’ offensive line next season is starting to look clearer. While there will be plenty of familiar faces at the skill positions, brace for change on the offensive line with four starters walking out the door.
2021 Starter: Sam Schlueter
Projected 2022 Starter: Aireontae Ersery
Schlueter has started 45 games over the last five seasons with the Gophers, including 32 consecutive starts at left tackle up to this point. Ersery is the favorite to take over for Schlueter. The 6’6”, 325-lb. redshirt freshman made his first career start as a true freshman against Nebraska in 2020, when the team’s COVID outbreak sidelined John Michael Schmitz and Axel Ruschmeyer.
2021 Starter: Conner Olson
Projected 2022 Starter: Axel Ruschmeyer
Olson has been a staple of the Gophers’ offensive line for the last five years. Since redshirting in 2016, Olson has started a school and Big Ten record 57 games for Minnesota. Ruschmeyer has big shoes to fill at left guard, but he at least has starting experience at the position. He started six games for the Gophers in 2020 after Daniel Faalele opted out and Curtis Dunlap Jr. suffered a season-ending injury in preseason camp, opening up a starting spot.
2021 Starter: John Michael Schmitz
Projected 2022 Starter: John Michael Schmitz
The Gophers’ lone returning starter up front will be Schmitz. As the most experienced offensive lineman on the roster, he’ll be the anchor of the Minnesota Movers.
2021 Starter: Blaise Andries
Projected 2022 Starter: Nathan Boe
Andries declared for the NFL Draft on Sunday and will make his 47th (and final) start for the Gophers in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl. That means Nathan Boe and Karter Shaw will likely compete to replace him at right guard this offseason. Next year will be Boe’s fifth with the program and he has seen action as a reserve the last three seasons, often at center or guard. Shaw is a transfer from Utah State who started 19 games at right guard for the Aggies before departing for Minnesota. He has two seasons of eligibility left.
2021 Starter: Daniel Faalele
Projected 2022 Starter: J.J. Guedet
Faalele leaves big shoes to fill — literally — after starting 31 games for the Gophers over the last four seasons. J.J. Guedet, who is a redshirt sophomore this fall, is the odds-on favorite to take over at right tackle, though he has only seen limited game action thus far.
The Gophers’ starting five on the offensive line entered the 2021 season with a combined 140 career starts under their belt. If Ersery, Ruschmeyer, Schmitz, Boe, and Guedet are the starters next season, Minnesota’s offensive line will have a combined 33 career starts to their name. That’s quite the drop-off. There isn’t a ton of depth behind the starting five, either. The coaching staff is exploring their options at offensive tackle in the transfer portal, but as of right now, only seven of the 14 scholarship offensive linemen on the roster for next season have seen game action. Minnesota offensive line coach Brian Callahan has his work cut out for him, and historically his offensive lines have experienced growing pains early in seasons. No matter who the starting five are, this position group will likely need time to gel as a unit next season.