Young twins just might be key for U

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 6, 2011 - 8:29 AM

The Gophers offensive line is getting younger, and the McAvoys could be part of a bright future.

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Twin brothers Luke (left) and Kyle McAvoy of Bloomington, Ill., signed with the Gophers last week.

Their size and strength got them here, and their speed and intelligence will help them succeed. But Kyle and Luke McAvoy, twin brothers and soon-to-be-Gophers, have another talent that gets offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover excited.

"They can read each other's mind," Limegrover said. "You really notice it when they're together."

He's hoping they are together on Minnesota's offensive line for several seasons, exercising the trait that Limegrover believes is more important on the line than anywhere else. "You're not always able to look each other in the eye and make a call," said Limegrover, who also coaches the Gophers offensive line. "Nonverbal communication is critical. That's why continuity matters so much on the line. And you can't beat having brothers."

If that's the case, the Gophers might be set for a few years. In addition to the McAvoy twins, a pair of 6-5 road graders from Bloomington, Ill., who signed letters of intent Wednesday, the Gophers added Tommy Olson, an all-state guard from Mahtomedi who will join his sophomore-to-be brother Ed at the university next fall.

That's not a bad foundation for the 2013 and 2014 offensive lines, considering the 20-year-old Ed Olson is the only one of the four who is older than 18. Limegrover said the Gophers' odd lineup situation might force the brother acts onto the field even earlier.

Little experience, plenty of candidates

Next year's roster features three fifth-year seniors on the offensive line, plus sophomores Ed Olson and Brooks Michel -- and nobody else with a single play of college experience. That's why the Gophers recruited six linemen a year ago, all of whom redshirted, then added another half-dozen last week.

"You don't like to piggy-back a big class on a big class, but we've got nothing in the middle, between the seniors and the pups," Limegrover said. That shortage caused the Gophers to play a game at Illinois last November with only six offensive linemen, gambling than nobody would get hurt; new coach Jerry Kill decided to bring in a junior-college transfer to add experienced depth but changed his mind after surveying the available prospects, none of whom impressed him.

That leaves an incredibly young core for Limegrover to sort out, beginning this spring. "Usually for recruits, it's like climbing a ladder to get to a starting position. When you come in as a freshman, you're looking at a lot of butts ahead of you," he said. "But here, it's like the ladder has fallen down and everybody is shoulder-to-shoulder. It's a situation where some kids are going to play before you'd like them to."

Tommy Olson is a prime candidate for that responsibility, if he can win a job in September, and military-school graduate Josh Campion might get a shot as well. Plus, there's that pool of redshirt freshmen who spent last fall in the weight room, which Limegrover calls "the greatest unknown of all -- I'm just now getting to see those guys at morning workouts. They're not strong enough yet, but that'll come."

A few of them -- Matt Eggen, Marek Lenkiewicz and Zac Epping -- were recruited by Limegrover at Northern Illinois, so he knows they will fit the Jerry Kill system, he said, and 300-pound Jimmy Gjere "just oozes athleticism out there."

And so do the McAvoy twins, two of the less-heralded but potentially high-impact members of the 2011 recruiting class.

They're not identical, and nowhere does that show up more than on the football field, said Rigo Schmelzer, their coach at Bloomington High School. Kyle, in fact, projects as a guard, while Luke's future is probably outside, as a tackle.

"Kyle is a mauler -- a get-in-your-face, knock-you-on-your-backside, north-south blocker, just ferocious," Schmelzer said. "Luke is more analytical and a little quicker. He's working hard to become as strong as Kyle, but he has better footwork. If Minnesota is looking to run the ball, they've got two good kids to clear the way."

Kyle McAvoy also is the No. 2-ranked heavyweight wrestler in Illinois, 32-0 heading into the weekend's regional meet, but he plans to give up the sport in college.

Staying together

The twins originally believed they might attend different schools -- they visited every Big Ten campus except Ohio State and Penn State, and Luke was investigating Ivy League schools last summer -- before Tim Brewster offered to make them both Big Ten players like their older brother Tim, who played for Michigan.

"We talked about it, and we thought that would make a lot of things easier," Kyle told the Bloomington Pantagraph last July, after committing to the Gophers. "The transition between high school and college is big. Having your brother there would definitely help."

After Brewster was fired in October, the pair remained of one mind about Minnesota, even after top-ranked Oregon inquired about Kyle's availability.

"When I visited them, they raved about the campus and the fit up here. It made my job easy. To go to one house and get two [Division I] quality players, that's pretty sweet," Limegrover said. "It's a recruiter's dream."

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