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Minnesota Football: Spring Position Previews - Offensive Line

Can the Gophers rebuild their offensive line?

NCAA Football: Guaranteed Rate Bowl-Minnesota at West Virginia Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

With spring football practice underway at Minnesota, we’ll be breaking down each position group in the lead-up to the spring game at 1 p.m. on Saturday, April 30.

2022 Offensive Line Roster

Returning Starter(s): John Michael Schmitz
Other Returners: Axel Ruschmeyer, Nathan Boe, Karter Shaw, J.J. Guedet, Aireontae Ersery, Martes Lewis, Tyrell Lawrence, Cameron James, and Logan Purcell
Spring Enrollees: Chuck Filiaga and Cade McConnell
Fall Enrollees: Quinn Carroll, Ashton Beers, and Tony Nelson

Out the Door: Sam Schlueter, Conner Olson, Daniel Faalele, and Blaise Andries

Spring Offensive Line Preview

In the span of an offseason, the Gophers will go from having one of the most experienced offensive lines in the country to one of the most inexperienced. Thankfully, John Michael Schmitz is back to anchor the Minnesota Movers at center, but the Gophers will spend this spring searching for clarity at the starting spots around him.

Redshirt sophomore Aireontae Ersery is the favorite to take over for Sam Schlueter as starting left tackle, with redshirt freshman Logan Purcell taking second-string snaps behind him. Head coach P.J. Fleck is very high on Ersery’s potential, singling him out earlier this spring as having the highest ceiling of any lineman they’ve had at Minnesota.

Right tackle is perhaps the biggest question mark of the four starting spots vacated this offseason. Many people, myself included, had penciled in redshirt junior J.J. Guedet as the starter, but unfortunately he has been banged up this spring. As a result, the bulk of the snaps at right tackle have been ceded to redshirt sophomore Martes Lewis, who has struggled in practice. Guedet failing to establish himself at the position this spring could open the door for Notre Dame transfer Quinn Carroll when he arrives on campus this summer.

On the interior of the offensive line, Axel Ruschmeyer opted to return for his final season of eligibility and has laid claim to the starting spot at left guard, with redshirt junior Tyler Cooper serving as his primary back-up. Ruschmeyer started six games for the Gophers in 2020.

The competition at right guard is between Michigan transfer Chuck Filiaga and former Utah State transfer Karter Shaw, though I’d give the edge to Filiaga for now. He transferred to Minnesota with one year of eligibility remaining after appearing in 39 career games for the Wolverines.

Even with four veteran starters walking out the door, the situation is not dire, but building chemistry and learning to communicate will be critical for the new starting five.