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Minnesota Football 2021 Preview: Is the Gopher offensive Line an upgrade or a downgrade

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How good will this unit be and is it better than last year?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 01 Outback Bowl - Minnesota v Auburn Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

quick intro

How did I do last year?

LINK

“Assuming everyone is returning and the starters are as we expect, this unit is going to be an upgrade.”

Well that was not a safe assumption. But the OL was just fine, more likely neutral to the 2019 unit. Two of the expected starters did not participate in 2020 but the unit was just fine, especially in the ground game.

2020

Starter: Sam Schleuter, Alex Ruschmeyer, John Michael Schmitz, Connor Olson, Blaise Andries
Depth: Nathan Boe, JJ Gaudet, Aireontae Ersery

Curtis Dunlap and Daniel Faaalele not playing for the 2020 season meant the offensive line needed a little help. John Michal Schmitz stepping in at center was no big deal, he had played in 26 games prior to the season with 4 starts. It was Alex Ruschmeyer who was thrust into a significant role, having played very little prior to 2020.

The rest of the starters were known commodities and did as was expected. Andries and Olson earned 3rd team All-Big Ten and overall this unit helped open holes for Mohamed Ibrahim to earn Big Ten Running Back of the Year.

Overall, a very good season for the offensive line.

2021

Starter: Sam Schleuter, Connor Olson, John Michael Schmitz, Blaise Andries, Daniel Faalele Depth: Curtis Dunlap Jr, Alex Ruschmeyer, Aireontae Ersery, Nathan Boe, JJ Gaudet, Karter Shaw

This unit is going to be stacked. Everybody returns from last year with three quality additions. Combined, the likely starters have 140 starts. Those coming off the bench have 21 combined starts. The top 6 linemen have all earned All-Big Ten mentions at point in their careers. They are experienced, they have been successful, they have all played with each other and they are primed for a great season.

Last year was a great year for Ruschmeyer, Ersery and Boe to get a little experience, giving this already deep unit even more depth. Karter Shaw was added as a transfer from Utah State and is a kid who will also provide depth before possibly starting next year.

Upgrade/Downgrade

This is the most talented offensive line that we have seen for the Gophers since the Glen Mason days. One might be able to argue that collectively this unit is better than any of Mason’s lines as well.

It was good last year, it will be elite this year and I’m calling it a clear upgrade. After the experienced gained by a few guys last year plus getting back Faalele and Dunlap, this unit is really, REALLY good.

Since the 2019 season there has been a “starting six” group. All six kids capable of starting and performing at a high level. Certain guys with position flexibility and if one guy would go down, there really was no drop off. Now this unit might be able to sustain 2 injuries and still carry with a starting 5 that is as good as there is in the conference.

I am not tempering my expectations here at one bit, this unit is elite and will be an upgrade over last year’s elite performance.

Poll

Is Offensive Line an upgrade over last season?

This poll is closed

  • 94%
    UPGRADE - undoubtedly
    (302 votes)
  • 5%
    NEUTRAL - impressive
    (16 votes)
  • 0%
    DOWNGRADE - inconceivable!
    (2 votes)
320 votes total Vote Now