Matt Limegrover has a problem to solve. It's a good problem, but a problem nonetheless.
The fourth-year coach of the Minnesota offensive line enters the 2014 season blessed with abundance of experience (collectively members of the offensive line have started 105 games) and size (13 players are 6-5 or taller and the average weight of the unit - which includes three true freshman who have not had the luxury of a college training table yet - is 298 pounds) on the line. It's a responsible unit as well, as the line committed only 13 penalties (10 false starts, one hold, one illegal man downfield and one personal foul) in 2013.
Limegrover has lots of options to pick from and his problem is finding the best five to play.
Redshirt senior Zac Epping and redshirt junior Josh Campion are the most experienced of the group. The duo were the only two linemen to start every game last year and have shown great durability during their careers. Epping, who has been touted as a preseason First-Team All-Big Ten selection, has started 34 straight games and has played both guard positions and center for the Gophers. Campion was the team's offensive captain last year and has started all 26 games of his career at right tackle.
Redshirt senior Tommy Olson also returns this year after starting the final four games in 2013 at center. Olson was so impressive that he was named to the Rimington Award Watch List prior to this season. Olson, who has played in 31 career games, replaced Jon Christenson at center after Christenson suffered a season-ending injury at Indiana. Christenson is a former walk-on who started the first nine games of last season at center is now healthy and is vying to regain a spot in the rotation. He has played both guard and center while at Minnesota.
Redshirt junior Foster Bush started the final four games of 2013 at right guard after Caleb Bak was lost to injury. The Menasha, Wis., native made his first career start last year, but has played in 20 career games.
Ben Lauer, who was named to the 2013 Football Writers Association of America Freshman All-America Team, split time with Ed Olson (since graduated) at left tackle last season. Lauer played in all 13 games and started four while alternating every two series with Olson for most of the second half of the season.
Opposite of the 6-8, 315-pound Lauer could be Jonah Pirsig, who is an opposing figure at 6-9, 320 pounds. Pirsig, who battled a couple of injuries early on in his career, played in seven games as a freshman last year and is looking to make his first start in 2014.
Redshirt senior Marek Lenkiewicz has played in 26 games and started the first three at left tackle in 2013. He has started nine career games and adds great depth to an experienced line. Joe Bjorklund is a redshirt junior who has seen action in nine career games, including the last two of 2013.
Brian Bobek is a redshirt junior who has yet to play a game for the Gophers since lettering at Ohio State in 2011. Bobek had to sit out 2012 after transferring to Minnesota and missed the 2013 season with a medical situation. Now healthy, the former high school All-American, will be looking to make his Minnesota debut in 2014.
Isaac Hayes is a redshirt sophomore who will be looking to make his collegiate debut in 2014. Redshirt junior Ernie Heifort returns to the offensive line in 2014 after filling in as a tight end in 2013 because of injuries.
The trio of redshirt freshman of Chad Fahning, Matt Leidner (younger brother of quarterback Mitch Lediner) and Alex Mayes all have one year under their belt and will take the next step forward in their development this year.
Gophers Headed To NFL
The Gophers had two players – Eric Murray and De’Vondre Campbell – selected in the NFL Draft on Saturday.
2016 NFL Draft Preview: De'Vondre Campbell
De'Vondre Campbell should hear his name called this week at the NFL Draft. The linebacker led the team in sacks with 4.0 and finished third in tackles.
Three Gophers Honored by NFF
Christenson, Mortell, Thomas awarded for outstanding academics by the National Football Foundation