GopherIllustrated publisher Ryan Burns is breaking down each Gopher football position group, what they're looking to add at each position in the Class of 2018 and their top targets.
Now, let's look at the offensive line.
You'll see that three of my projected starters along the offensive line are listed above in Jared Weyler, Garrison Wright and Vincent Calhoun, but the issue is they were all out for the spring recovering from injuries. That's definitely not ideal with a new offensive line coach in and a new system to learn, but it was the reality for Minnesota this spring. All three worked in during individual with coach Warinner, but need to get and stay healthy this summer before fall camp starts.
The only other starter back healthy this spring was left tackle Donnell Greene, and he saw every single rep at left tackle. For a guy who didn't play in 2015, it's pretty remarkable the progress he's made in the 18 months since as he eventually started for Minnesota and now he's one of the Gophers best linemen. Working with coach Warinner was a big benefit for the Gophers left tackle.
If there was ever going to be a time for Bronson Dovich, Nick Connelly and Quinn Oseland to take big steps forward, it was this past spring and each of these three guys saw as many reps as they could handle. Dovich and Oseland missed some time with injury, but Winona's Nick Connelly is one that should have fans excited for the immediate future. He's finally grown into that gigantic frame while maintaining his athleticism and bend to go with a 300 lb frame.
Both Conner Olson and Sam Schlueter are now off their redshirt season as well, and Olson specifically is one that could start his career his very soon. With Weyler out, Olson took every single rep at center for Minnesota and looked good. He looks primed for a good Gopher career that could start as soon as this fall.
Knowing how many injuries Minnesota battled on the line this spring, each of these three 2017 signees have to be ready to contribute in practice and potentially on the travel squad this fall.
Projected 2017 fall depth chart
LT: Donnell Greene - Nick Connelly
LG: Jared Weyler - Quinn Oseland
C: Conner Olson - Jared Weyler
RG: Vincent Calhoun - Bronson Dovich
RT: Garrison Wright - Nick Connelly
What the Gophers want in 2018
This is a position I expect Minnesota to target at least five guys for in 2018 as injuries have severely depleted the ranks on the offensive line. Minnesota's already off to a great start with a commitments Ohio's Austin Beier and Georgia's Oyenmwen Uzebu, but the Gophers need to keep adding to this group.
Creston (Iowa) offensive lineman Trevor Downing will be visiting Minnesota later this week for the third time in as many months, and this looks to be a race between the Gophers and Cyclones of Iowa State. Downing has both in-state offers from Iowa and Iowa State, plus Missouri and Kansas State have joined the race as well. The Gophers are going to pull out every stop to hopefully get the Iowa lineman to head north.
Big Georgia offensive tackle Jalynn Strickland is one the Gophers have their eye on for the other tackle spot besides Uzebu, and are working to get on campus this summer. Stickland is under the radar for now with offers from Maryland, Cincinnati and Colorado State, but Minnesota's 100% okay with that for the time being.
The former Robbinsdale (Minn.) Armstrong product is now at a Junior College in New York and seen his recruitment explode with offers from Minnesota, Nebraska, Colorado and Kentucky among others, but you have to think the Gophers are the favorite here being the home town school. There's some discussion amongst the staff if Besseck is a tackle or a guard, but with spots still open for Minnesota at both positions, things are still in Besseck's favor.
Minnesota was able to get Detroit (Mich.) offensive lineman Carlos Vettorello on campus back for Minnesota's spring game, and the Gophers were sitting in a good spot with a potential late May / June decision. That being said, a Minnesota source tells GI to not expect Vettorello to be a part of the Gophers class as it sounds like the two sides of gone in different directions.