Now that we have analyzed the depth of the Gophers at all the skill positions on offense, it is time to beginning digging into depth at arguably the most important position besides quarterback. That position is offensive line, and I believe it is the crucial element to turning things around on the offensive side of the ball. Due to the number of people involved along the offensive line, I have tried to break it down into two parts tackles and guards/center to follow in a subsequent post. Going into 2012, the Gophers will be looking to replace redshirt senior Chris Bunders who started the final seven games of the season at right tackle when Jimmy Gjere went down with concussion issues. However, starting left tackle Ed Olson returns as a redshirt junior.
Ed Olson: will be a redshirt junior in 2012 and is a solid 6'7" 300 lbs. He has already started 18 games at left tackle for the Gophers, so he is an experienced junior that has proven to be a reliable blocker. I look for Ed to continue to make strides as a blocker and be a calming influence on what will prove to be a relatively young offensive line.
Luke McAvoy: is the twin brother to Kyle McAvoy and he also redshirted in 2011 and will be a redshirt freshman in 2012. Luke measures 6'5" 281 lbs. Luke has the large frame to contribute at the tackle position, but will benefit from continued development and strength training. However, he doesn't demonstrate the same explosion and strength that his brother does. I don't expect Luke to see the field much, if at all, in 2012 due to the tackles already mentioned above. Hopefully he continues to develop and enhance the depth of the tackle position.
Conclusion: To put it simply, I am giddy (yes I just used giddy) about the level of depth and talent on display at the tackle position for the Gophers. All of these guys measure in at least 6'5 and in fact 3 of them hit 6'7" and most will have playing weights near 300 lbs. These players give the Gophers legitimate size and athleticism to compete with anyone else in the Big 10 along the line of scrimmage. It wasn't that long ago that the Gophers achieved relevance in the Big 10 by producing solid offensive lines and running the ball effectively. I look for these tackles to start opening up holes in the running game and keeping MarQueis off his back. Plus, looking forward all these guys are either sophomores or freshmen, with the exception of Ed Olson who is a junior. This position is loaded with talent and is extremely young. As a result, it will continue to allow the Gophers the luxury of redshirting incoming offensive tackle recruits, which will continue to aid the depth and development of our players. I am extremely excited about the tackle position. In fact, I think it is the strongest position on the Gopher team in 2012.