The Gophers have had an offensive lineman drafted in back-to-back NFL Drafts, so there has been some talent running through the program in recent years. With 3 graduates with a number of starts under their belt, there will be some changes along the line this year. Will the program be able to sustain it’s success with this unit?
Starter: Aireontae Ersery, Alex Ruschmeyer, John Michael Schmitz, Chuck Fliaga, Quinn Carroll
Depth: Martes Lewis, Nathan Boe, Karter Shaw, JJ Guedet
The Gopher offensive line was really quite good last year. Just ask Mohamed Ibrahim. John Michael Schmitz was a 2nd round draft choice while Alex Ruschmeyer and Chuck Filiaga were both 3rd Team All-Big Ten selections. All three of those guys were 6th-year seniors and had great final seasons in their maroon and gold.
Ersery started all 13 games at LT and had a very good season while Quinn Carroll got his first taste of starting at RT where he was sometimes dominant and occasionally struggled.
Martes Lewis saw action in all 13 games, Nathan Boe started the bowl game and participated in the other 12, Karter Shaw played mostly on special teams but played in all 13 games, and JJ Guedet saw limited action for a second straight season.
Starter: Aireontae Ersery, Karter Shaw, Nathan Boe, Quinn Carroll, Martes Lewis
Depth: JJ Guedet, Tyler Cooper, Tony Nelson, Tyrell Lawrence, Ashton Beers
I think we are certain about 2 positions along the 2023 line. Ersery starting at left tackle is one of them. Last year was technically his redshirt sophomore season but he still has 3 seasons of eligibility. He had a great season in 2022 and will anchor that LT position for 2 or 3 more years. This is one position we should be completely confident in.
Right Guard is seemingly another lock as Quinn Carroll will move from RT to RG. This might be a brilliant position move and RG may even become an upgrade over last year’s 3rd team All-Big Ten RG. Carroll’s weakness seemed to be when he was caught in space against a quicker rush end. Moving inside may allow him to flourish.
Nathan Boe started at center in the bowl game while JMS sat out to prepare for the NFL Draft. He is the logical choice to start at center in week 1. This will be the 6th year senior’s last year of eligibility. It is possible that Karter Shaw starts at center if Boe struggles is injured.
At LG is a bit of a camp battle between Shaw and Tyler Cooper. It seems likely that Shaw will be the starter. The transfer from Utah State got some action last year for the Gophers and this is his last season of eligibility. Cooper has 2 years left of eligibility. With Shaw’s flexibility between G and C, Cooper stands to gain some playing time at LG if things get shuffled around.
Martes Lewis is your likely starter at RT with some pressure coming from Guedet. Lewis has a massive frame and has been working exclusively at RT. He very well could lock down this position for the next 3 seasons. Guedet has battled some injuries over his career and still has 2 seasons left.
Additional depth will come from redshirt freshman Tony Nelson, junior Tyrell Lawrence and redshirt freshman Ashton Beers.
This one is a tricky one to predict. It is incredibly difficult to replace the experience and leadership of the 3 interior linemen who graduated. If I had to break it down by position, I’d go with something like this...
- LT - upgrade, another year of strength and experience for Ersery
- LG - downgrade, Ruschmeyer had a great season and I think there are questions marks with Shaw and/or Cooper
- C - downgrade, Boe may be fine, but he won’t be the same as a 2nd round draft choice
- RG - neutral, maybe an upgrade, but I really like Carroll at guard
- RT - upgrade, I’m very excited about Lewis here
Collectively that’s about a neutral, but I’m going to suggest this is still a downgrade. In the scenarios above the upgrades are going to be very slight, while the downgrades might be more pronounced. This unit should still be good, just not quite at the elite level it was a year ago.
Will the O-Line be an upgrade or a downgrade?
This poll is closed
UPGRADE - shuffling and reloading
NEUTRAL - you win some and you lose some
DOWNGRADE - miss you JMS