After finally getting an offensive linemen drafted and 3 more finishing their careers at Minnesota, will the 2022 line be an upgrade or a downgrade heading into this new season?
We headed into the 2021 season knowing that the offensive line was going to be one of the strengths of the Gopher football team. All 5 starters were back and all had multiple years of starting experience. This turned out to be accurate and the 2021 line was one of the best in the country.
Then Daniel Faalele left early for the NFL Draft, 3 others had expired their eligibility (Sam Schlueter, Conner Olson and Blaise Andries) and key reserve Curtis Dunlap decided to transfer to Rutgers.
But this unit was impressive last season. Perhaps one of the best Gopher offensive lines we have seen in a very long time.
Spring Preview - LINK
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.
This is the key offensive talking point of the offseason. Losing 4/5 of your offensive line in the college game is concerning.
Starter: Aireontae Ersery (T), Axel Ruschmeyer (LG), John Michael Schmitz (C), Chuck Filiaga (RG), Quinn Carroll (RT)
Depth: JJ Guedet (T), Nathan Boe (IOL), Karter Shaw (IOL)
The best two bits of news from the offseason were that JMS decided to return for another season AND that the Gophers landed a couple of former 4-star transfers to help restock the line.
Schmitz is returning and is potentially an All-American center. He has been outstanding and is popping up on multiple preseason award lists, with a legit shot at winning some post-season honors. The man in the middle returning was a huge sigh of relief for this 2022 line.
The transfers may turn out to be absolute gifts for a program looking to replace 80% of its line. Chuck Filiaga is a former 4-star recruit who went to Michigan. He made 8 starts at Michigan and a total of 39 appearances. He now slots in at one of the G spots for the Gophers, likely at RG.
Quinn Carroll was also a huge get for the Gophers in the offseason. The former Edina player who chose to go to Notre Dame has decided to come back and row the boat. He was a coveted recruit for the Irish but suffered a knee injury his freshman season and then saw very little action as a sophomore. He arrived at Minnesota this summer and will be fighting with JJ Guedet to start at RT.
At the other tackle you have Ersery, who has been getting rave reviews through the spring and summer. A kid who was stuck behind the likes of Faalele and Schlueter for his career, but has a ton of talent. This may be a breakout season for redshirt sophomore.
Finally, we get to Ruschmeyer, who is likely your starting LG. Now in his final year of eligibility, Ruschmeyer will get a chance to be a regular starter. Now he does have 9 starts under his belt and has been a regular contributor, particularly in the team’s jumbo package, so he is not without some Big Ten experience.
For depth, the offense will most likely turn to Guedet at either of the tackle spots and Boe along the interior. Boe has a couple of starts over his career and participated in all of the games last season. He is in his 5th season with the team, so he is not young, just inexperienced. Guedet is in his 4th season and he participated in 3 games last season.
Upgrade or Downgrade?
As has been said many times, this group is inexperienced but not necessarily young. This is not a situation where the program has to replace 4/5 of their line by playing sophomores or redshirt freshmen.
What we don’t know is just how talented most of these guys are. Were they buried on the depth chart behind guys who were just really good and experienced?
From the standpoint of whether this unit is an upgrade or downgrade, I think it would be really hard to argue that this is anything but a downgrade. The question is, how much of a downgrade? Or can it end up being close to neutral?
JMS is going to be a stud, I’m confident that this position is locked down and will be great. At guard, I love the fact that Ruschmeyer has some experience and I think he will be fine. And I’m buying the hype around Ersery, there’s a chance this guy is very good. Filiaga is a question mark. Sure he was highly rated and came from a great program. But there’s also a reason he left Michigan while no longer holding the starting job. The same can be said for Carroll too. Are those two going to prove to their former programs that they should have been getting more playing time all along? Are they going to be at least above average Big Ten starters?
I don’t think this unit goes from one of the best in the conference to being terrible. This is where the staff has hopefully done a better job of building program depth and much like some of our Big Ten West counterparts, we continue quality OL play by plugging in the next guy.
Upgrade or Downgrade for the Gopher offensive line in 2022?
This poll is closed
UPGRADE: These transfers and new starters are going to surprise everyone!
NEUTRAL: I know we lost a lot, but I like this line to continue to dominate.
DOWNGRADE: Just slightly, we still have talent on this roster.
DOWNGRADE: This is going to be a disaster!