If you follow the Gophers closely, you know the offensive line's development might be the key to the 2016 season, even if it doesn't draw all the headlines.
The QB (Mitch Leidner), RBs (Shannon Brooks, Rodney Smith), TE (Brandon Lingen) and WRs (all except KJ Maye) are pretty much the same. But there have been big changes on the line, with only two starters back (C Tyler Moore and RT Jonah Pirsig) and a new, fire-breathing O-line coach in Bart Miller.
The three other projected starters are LT Garrison Wright (JUCO transfer), RG Vincent Calhoun (JUCO transfer) and LG Connor Mayes (a junior who started last year's first nine games).
Through 10 spring practices, Chad Fahning has been holding down the starting left tackle spot. Fahning is a junior walk-on from De La Salle. Wright has banged up a bit and also made the switch to LT from guard.
On Thursday, the new O-line coach offered some impressions.
Miller on Fahning: “Chad comes to work everyday. He’s a competitor. He’s really tried to come on and embrace the physical nature of what we’re trying to do, and you see that in some of the run game. Chad’s another guy that’s shown us tremendous versatility. A guy that came in and has walked on here and has played kind of all over -- scout team and those kinds of things, and now he’s getting a chance to show what he can do. He’s a perfect example of learning the technique, playing physical, and he’s a smart player, and he’s put in a position to be successful.”
Miller on the JUCO transfers: “I’ve been very pleased. Not only with their attention but with the way they’ve come in and competed right away. They’ve added a physical element. They’ve got some ability. I think it helps with that first group especially. Vince [Calhoun] has had a great spring and has shown he is a very tough competitor. As he continues to grow, get more developed and understanding the offense, I think you’re starting to see him really mature in his game. Garrison [Wright] has shown the versatility to play inside and out. When we get him back in all of practice, I think you’re going to start to see him grow leaps and bounds. I’ve been very pleased with their development. They’re definitely an asset to our program.”