The key to a successful offensive play begins with the five guys up front without the football in their hands. The offensive line is largely overlooked when a player from a skill position makes a big play, despite providing lanes for the ball carriers to run through.
Offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Matt Limegrover has an experienced and deep pool of road graters to choose from before the first game of the season – Sept. 3 vs. TCU. The key will be to put the most talented and cohesive group out on the field.
The 2015 team has plenty of beef up front as the offensive line accounts for just over three tons of pounds. The average weight of the line is 299.4 pounds, with 11 athletes weighing over 300 pounds.
The offensive line returns eight players who saw action in at least eight games last season. The 2014 group blocked for running back David Cobb who set a single-season school record with 1,626 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns. Last year’s unit was held under 100 rushing yards only one time (at TCU, 99 yards) and eclipsed the 200-yards plateau seven times, including a 380-yard outburst versus San Jose State.
Leading the charge heading into the 2015 season will be redshirt seniors Joe Bjorklund, Brian Bobek, Foster Bush, Josh Campion and Jon Christenson. Campion provides the most experience, having not missed a start since his freshman season (39 games) and picking up All-Big Ten Honorable Mention the past two years.
Bush and Bjorklund split time as the starting right guard in the first 12 games of the season, while Christenson got the nod for the Citrus Bowl. Christenson earned the starting center spot in 2013 before suffering a season-ending injury at Indiana. Bobek, a 6-2, 289-pound transfer from Ohio State, made his Minnesota debut against Eastern Illinois and saw action in three games last season.
Juniors Ben Lauer, Isaac Hayes and Jonah Pirsig have combined for 17 starts since arriving on campus and redshirting in 2012. Pirsig and Lauer stand the tallest among the lineman group at 6-9 and 6-7, respectively. Pirsig started the first two and last five games of the 2014 season at right tackle, while Lauer started from the third game through the eighth game. Hayes played in all 13 games last year, serving as a key special teams member and backup to the linemen.
Looking to make an impact in their second years athletically are Chad Fahning, Matt Leidner, Alex Mayes and Connor Mayes. Of the sophomores, C. Mayes was the only player to see the field in 2014 as the Van Alstyne, Texas native competed in eight contests. His brother, Alex, was granted a sixth season of eligibility after seeing a promising season cut short due to injury last year. Fahning and Leidner are both local products from St. Paul and Lakeville, Minn., respectively.
After taking redshirts in their first year on campus, Matt Oldenkamp, Luke Rasmussen and Jared Weyler are primed to provide even more quality depth across the front line of attack. Rasmussen and Weyler both arrived in Minneapolis as three-star recruits, while Oldenkamp made the transition to offensive line from being a tight end in high school.
Despite already having a strong contingent on the line, the coaching staff brought in six quality offensive linemen into the 2015 team. The group of newcomers average out to be 6-6, 295 pounds before being put through a collegiate training regimen.
Nick Connelly, Bronson Dovich, Noah Kuehn, Tyler Moore, Quinn Oseland and Ted Stieber all join the Maroon and Gold with an edge to compete at the highest level. Connelly, Dovich, Moore, Oseland and Steiber all received three-star ratings from multiple recruiting outlets, while Kuehn comes from the Gophers own backyard in Eagan, Minn.
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