The two greatest strengths of Minnesota’s successful 2021 squad was the play up front. The Golden Gophers got outstanding play from the offensive and defensive lines, a huge reason they were able to post a 9-4 record and find themselves in the B1G West race until the final week of the season.

But a lot of those key contributors are out the door.

Daniel Faalele, Sam Schleuter, Conner Olson and Blaise Andries all departing from the offensive line, there’s a lot left to replace. It’s going to be tough for a program that went from one of the most experienced units up front to one of the least in the B1G.

The other side doesn’t get much better. The Golden Gophers are losing Boye Mafe, Esezi Otomewo, Nyles Pinckney and Micah Dew-Treadway are all departing from the program. That leaves a ton of space open to newer faces for the 2022 campaign.

To win in the B1G, controlling the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball is key. PJ Fleck isn’t overly concerned, though he’s heard some of the noise from the outside.

“I know everyone is worried about O-line, D-line, but if you saw what I saw since January, you wouldn’t be as worried about it,” Fleck said, per Andy Greder of the Pioneer Press. “These guys have attacked it. We have more depth, probably.”

Minnesota was 9-4 during the 2021 season, relying heavily on stout defensively play and a ferocious rushing attack to lead the way. The Golden Gophers found a way to knock off Wisconsin at the end of the season to claim Paul Bunyan’s Axe and defeated West Virginia in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl.

The Gophers are still looking to win their first B1G West title. In order to get there, Minnesota’s play along the front lines will have to be as good as it was a year ago.