Minnesota Golden Gophers Football Offseason Preview
The Minnesota Golden Gophers did not have a great season, but they did not have a terrible one, either. Minnesota rescued its season with its last two games. The Golden Gophers beat archrival Wisconsin to win back Paul Bunyan’s Axe and win a rivalry game which means a lot to the University of Minnesota. They then defeated West Virginia in their bowl game to end the season on another high note. Preceding those last two games, however, this was a tough slog for Minnesota. Injuries at the running back position did not help the team or its offense, but that was not an excuse to lose at home to Bowling Green as a 31-point favorite. Minnesota was able to rebound from that loss by winning its next four games, but losses to Illinois and Iowa prevented the Gophers from making a serious push for the Big Ten West Division championship. This team had no business losing to Illinois or Bowling Green. Had it taken care of matters in those two games, Minnesota would have won at least 10 games, probably 11. It would have gained a much more prestigious bowl invitation. Though a nine-win season is very good by recent historical standards, losing four times represents a missed opportunity. UM will try to pounce on opportunities more consistently in this upcoming season.
Key Personnel Lost
Offensive linemen Daniel Faalele and Blaise Andries are gone, as are defensive linemen Boye Mafe and Thomas Rush. Minnesota’s two lines will need to replenish their levels of resources. They are thin and do not have the depth they owned last year.
Important Incoming Freshmen
Cade McConnell will be asked to play an interior offensive line position on a team where only one starting offensive lineman returns from 2021. Minnesota likes to play physical football. This is a run-first team which tries to establish the running game and then pass when defenses are expecting the run. If the offensive line is not able to carve out holes for the running backs, the rest of the offense is unlikely to function well. McConnell will be at the forefront of the effort to maintain standards along the offensive line.
Key Position Battles
Minnesota has to replace four offensive linemen and three defensive linemen. The coaches will need to evaluate players at those two position groups. Remember that while the starting players are obviously a point of focus for fans, a college team has over 80 roster spots and needs to have at least 10 to 15 offensive linemen on its roster so that it can rotate bodies in and out during games and also have the depth to withstand injuries during the season. The coaches need to see not only which players are worthy of being named starters, but how the full rotation of linemen will be organized heading into summer training camp in August.
Biggest Offseason Goal(s)
The Gophers have needs at quarterback and along their two lines, offensive and defensive. Getting new players to play well in the trenches, while also getting more out of their passing game as a complement to their rushing attack, will be core goals for the Gophers.