When P.J. Fleck first arrived at Minnesota, the offensive line was one of the thinnest and weakest in the B1G. Now, the Gophers could have one of the strongest front lines in the league.
Minnesota enters spring practice coming off a 7-6 campaign, winning three of its final four games, including victories over rival Wisconsin and Georgia Tech in the Quick Lane Bowl. It returns a plethora of size, experience and depth on the offensive line, and three running backs who have at one time led the Gophers in rushing — Mohamed Ibrahim, Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks.
It’s the offensive line, though, that has Fleck most excited. He feels strongly that it’ll be the greatest strength for Minnesota next fall and could be one of the top units in the B1G.
“Remember, we had four when we got here. Two years later, I think we’re going to have one of the better offensive lines in the B1G. I feel that way,” Fleck told the media. “I think Brian Callahan has done has done a great job developing that unit very quickly.”
Guys like Daniel Faalele, Curtis Dunlap, Conner Olson and Blaise Andries will highlight the offensive line, but it’s really the quality depth the Gophers have up front that will be the significant difference. The added experience doesn’t hurt, either.
“We started three in the bowl game that were freshman, one was a sophomore,” Fleck said. “So, you have four underclassmen at the offensive line starting in that bowl game. There’s plenty of depth behind it.”
Fleck pointed to J.J. Guedet as a player who has made huge strides and could potentially see early playing time for Minnesota next fall. Jason Dickson, who transferred from Diablo Valley Community College will also be a player to keep an eye on over the next few months.
Winning in the B1G usually requires a strong front line and a good rushing attack. Minnesota’s ranked eighth in the B1G last fall running the football, averaging 170.9 yards per game. But with a strong offensive line and three tremendous backs returning, the Gophers have the potential to have one of the best in the B1G in 2019.
The Gophers will be almost unrecognizable up front after just a few years with Fleck running the show.