Not one senior played on the Gopher offensive line in 2012. With no departing seniors, there are no automatically open spots to fill on the depth chart. This fall, a bigger pool of linemen are competing for the same number of spots as before.
"It's been a lot of good competition, which is great," right guard Caleb Bak said. "When you have competition, people below each other will help fuel people above each other. Competition is just naturally good."
Bak is a returning starter for Minnesota.
Although Bak started the Gophers' final 11 games last season, he must still take the competition from his teammates seriously. At the same time, the linemen know they are all on the same side.
"Everyone's really friendly with each other," Bak said. "It's a very friendly atmosphere."
Junior left tackle Marek Lenkiewicz, who is competing with senior Ed Olson for the starting spot, echoed that sentiment. He said the offensive line's motto is, "Five is one." The line must work as a single unit in order to be effective.
Lenkiewicz said that continuity within the group, being together with many of the same guys for the past few years, is important. Everyone from 2012 is back again with another year of experience.
"It's fantastic," Bak said. "It's something you don't get a lot. Most programs you're going to go into, you're going to have people who play only their junior or senior year. Here, we have a bunch of guys who played their freshman and sophomore years. We're coming in with a lot of experience, so it's looking to be a good year for the offensive line."