Return to Glory

Return to Glory

Friday, March 2, 2012

Analyzing Depth at Offensive Tackle Position

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.

Jimmy Gjere: will be a redshirt sophomore in 2012 and is measures 6'7" 315 lbs. Jimmy actually earned the starting right tackle job in 2011 as a redshirt freshman, but concussion issues derailed his season. The good news is that Jimmy Gjere is recovered from the concussions and should be back as the starting right tackle in 2012. Jimmy was a heralded recruit coming out of high school and ranked by ESPN as the #19 guard in the country. He has the size, strong footwork and arm length you look for in a lineman to lock down a tackle spot. I look for Jimmy to lock down a tackle spot for the foreseeable future.

Kyle McAvoy: redshirted during the 2011 season and will be a redshirt freshman in 2012. Kyle is a solid 6'5" 296 lbs. Kyle was another highly touted prospect coming out of high school. ESPN ranked him the #28 offensive tackle in the 2011 recruiting rankings. Since he redshirted last year, there isn't much to go off of other than high school scouting reports, which state he is a tough run blocker that demonstrates initial explosion to knock defenders off the line of scrimmage. He has the natural size and athleticism to be a key contributor to the tackle position. I would look for Kyle to be one of the first reserves called upon should Ed or Jimmy get injured.

Marek Lenkiewicz: will be a redshirt sophomore in 2012 and measures 6'5" 270 lbs. Marek was able to start the final two games at left tackle during 2011 season and made appearances during the Michigan, Purdue, Nebraska and Iowa games. As a result, Marek received some solid in game experience during 2011, which will help provide depth to the tackle position. Marek has demonstrated he can sustain blocks well and battles to the whistle.

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.

Jonah Pirsig: is one of the crown jewels of the 2012 recruiting class. He is a monster that arrives on campus already measuring 6'8" 300 lbs. It will be impressive to see what his frame is capable of after a couple years in Minnesota's strength and conditioning program. He is another native Minnesotan hailing from Blue Earth, MN. ESPN ranked him the #48 offensive tackle in the 2012 recruiting rankings. The scouting reports are that he is a dominant run blocker, but Jonah also possesses the nimble feet and arm length to be an effective pass blocker at the tackle position. I look for Jonah to redshirt during 2012 thanks to the solid depth in front of him, but look for him to be a solid contributor in the years ahead.

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.

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