GopherDigest publisher Ryan Burns is breaking down each Gopher football position group, what they're looking to add at each position in the Class of 2017 and their top targets.
Now, let's look at the offensive line.
What the Gophers have on roster
Senior Jonah Pirsig has already played in 32 games in his collegiate career, including starting each of Minnesota's 13 games last season. Pirsig is the leader of this young group of offensive lineman and is a model of stability for a group that saw a lot of flux last season. Pirsig figures to be the cornerstone at right tackle this season and he's going to be key in both protecting fellow senior Mitch Leidner and getting the running game back on track this fall.
Minnesota pulled sophomore center Tyler Moore's redshirt last season against Purdue once Brian Bobek went down with a concussion and the true freshman never looked back as the Gophers rushed for over 300 yards in Moore's first start. Moore is one of the most aggressive offensive lineman on roster and he's a tone setter for an offensive line that could use a little anger. With Bart Miller now at the helm of this group, look for him to use Moore as an example of how to play with a fire lit under your behind. Moore has a very bright future at center and looks to be a four-year starter by the time his career is over.
Mayes came into Minnesota with high expectations as an Army-All American in 2014 and he played in 21 games during his first two season. Now Connor looks to be the starter at left guard for the Gophers at 2016 and Minnesota hopes that he grabs a hold of that spot for his final two years. Mayes has all the ability that you want at offensive line and just needs to play like the mean and aggressive offensive lineman that he showed coming out of high school. Still a lot of expectations for Mayes the next two years.
Junior college transfer Garrison Wright looks be Minnesota's starter at left tackle after a productive spring. Wright was banged up at the start of spring ball, but once he was healthy, looked to have gained full control of that left tackle position. Mitch Leidner has seen far too much pressure from his blindside the last two years and with Wright now there, he is Minnesota's most athletic left tackle of Leidner's career. Hopefully Wright can fill a void there at left tackle.
Maybe the most athletic lineman on the roster now is another junior college transfer is Vincent Calhoun. The Georgia native took control at right guard and looked more and more comfortable at the position as each spring practice went on after playing tackle at the junior college level. Calhoun is another guy with a high ceiling that if he can adjust quickly to the guard position this fall, things could really open up in the running game.
Junior in-state tackle Chad Fahning was the surprise of the spring maybe of the entire offense as he was one of the Gophers most improved, if not the most improved offensive lineman on the roster. Fahning at the very least will be Minnesota's swing tackle this fall, and that's an all too important position with both Wright and Pirsig missing various time recently. The DeLaSalle product figures to have a very important role this fall for the Gophers.
The depth behind the starters for Minnesota on the offensive line may be the biggest question on the entire roster for the Gophers heading into the season. If the starters can play 85% of the snaps, the Gophers offense should absolutely take a step forward from last year. If they can't, Minnesota's young depth is going to be tested.
Guys like Nick Connelly, Quinn Oseland, Jared Weyler and Bronson Dovich need to have great summers in the weight room to be ready for Gophers this fall as they're going to be guys likely within the two deep. Other guys like Ted Stieber, Ryan Just, Luke Rasmussen and Matt Leidner also have to remain ready if called upon. True freshmen Conner Olson and Sam Schlueter are likely to redshirt, but with so much uncertainty in the two deeps, I'm not ruling anything out yet.
Projected 2016 depth chart
LT: Garrison Wright - Chad Fahning
LG: Connor Mayes - Quinn Oseland
C: Tyler Moore - Jared Weyler
RG: Vincent Calhoun - Bronson Dovich
RT: Jonah Pirsig - Chad Fahning
What the Gophers want in 2017
Minnesota already has two offensive linemen committed and they were the first two commits of the 2017 class in four-star Blaise Andries and top 100 tackle Eric Abojei. Andries and Abojei were the first two offers under new offensive line coach Bart Miller as they were the high priorities for Minnesota being in-state guys and the Gophers staff was able to get both to commit and close down their recruiting.
The Gophers figure to sign four, potentially five offensive lineman in their 2017 class and it wouldn't be a surprise to see the Gophers be full in their offensive line recruiting by the end of the summer. With Andries and Abojei projecting at tackle, Bart Miller and staff are looking for some interior guys to end of this class.
Nebraska's Brett Kitrell will be taking an unofficial visit to Minnesota on June 18th and if the Huskers don't offer this month, I think Kitrell will be the leading candidate to next join the Gophers offensive line class. If the Huskers do end up offering, it's going to be very likely that he ends up a Husker, but if not, it looks to be Minnesota's race to lose. Kitrell projects at center for Minnesota, which is a huge need for this 2017 class and Bart Miller.
Texas' Derek Kerstetter has told GopherDigest that he'll take an unofficial visit to Minnesota in July, and it's looking like he'll be coming for Minnesota's BBQ event, which will likely be on July 16th. Kerstetter holds other offers from Houston, Texas Tech and Illinois, so Minnesota absolutely has competition to get him out of Texas, but if and when this visit takes place this summer, the Gophers will have a good chance.
Florida offensive lineman Grant Miller just was at a satellite camp in Illinois yesterday where Gophers OL coach Bart Miller attended, so Minnesota got a fresh look at the former Illinois native. Miller has the Gophers on top following a recent offer and now just need to get him on campus this summer if they want a chance to lock down the St. Thomas Aquinas lineman.
Missouri's Larry Boyd has quite the offer list with Arkansas, Mizzou, Wisconsin and Oklahoma State joining the Gophers, but word is that Boyd will be visiting Minnesota here in the coming weeks. No date has been set yet, but if the visit happens, Minnesota will have as good of a chance as any at the top 40 guard.
Hayes is another guy that looks to be blowing up here as he holds offers from Mizzou, Illinois and Kansas State with more SEC schools looking on. Word is that Hayes may visit the Gophers this summer, but I'm not as high on Minnesota's chance here compared to others on the list.
Maybe the top in-state lineman without an offer right now is Osseo's Nash Jensen, but he'll be camping with Minnesota on Sunday. Jensen has a multitude of FCS offers and showed with at one the Nike camps this spring. Jensen needs to have a great showing with Bart Miller this weekend to get on the offer radar, and if an offer comes, his recruitment could be over in short order.