I focused most of my coverage from last Friday's press conference on new Gophers offensive coordinator Jay Johnson. The team also introduced new offensive line coach Bart Miller that day, and I wanted to touch on him more today.
Miller is 30 years old, but he's already entering his fifth full season as an offensive line coach, starting with the turnaround job at Wisconsin in 2012. Spend five minutes talking to Miller, and you're instantly struck by his intensity. Here's an answer he gave about the mentality he expects for the Gophers offensive linemen:
"It starts with recruiting. It starts with everything they do, the way they live their life. We’re going to train hard. We’re going to practice hard. We're going to study hard, do all those things. You can’t expect to go outside and be a physical hard-nosed player if you don’t live that life.
"So we’re going to work hard. I know they’ve worked hard here in the past, but everything should be demanding. If you look at any elite organization, that’s really the way things are run, from a sports standpoint, all the way through businesses or military. The elite units train the hardest and are the best because they believe that way, and they know they’re prepared so that when game day comes, they’re ready to go. So that’s the mentality moving forward.
"We’re going to hit at practice. We’re going to pad it up and hit every day. And we’re going to go inside drill and be in the cage, and we’re going to live that life. And they’re going to know when they take the field they’re the most physical guy on the field, and they’re going to win. And that’s the mentality they’re going to take on the field."
Miller inherits an offensive line in flux. The Gophers have two returning starters -- tackle Jonah Pirsig and center Tyler Moore. Outgoing seniors include Jon Christenson, Joe Bjorklund and Foster Bush. Two fourth-year juniors who won't be returning are Ben Lauer and Isaac Hayes. The Gophers could have two junior college transfers starting at guard this fall, in Vincent Calhoun and Garrison Wright. Pirsig will be at one tackle, and a leading candidate to start at the other tackle is Nick Connelly, a Red Wing native who redshirted this year.
"I think there’s a challenge ahead of us, but I think there’s guys coming back that are good players," Miller said. "I think there’s guys that want to be good and want to do things the way we’re going to do them. And we’re going to bring in some new players, too, that we’re excited about and have a chance to be very good players here.
"I know there’s been some turnover, there’s been some injuries, there’s been some obstacles. The way we’re going to do things is going to help that. And the way we’re going to train, the way we’re going to practice and install our offense is really going to make for our offensive line to be a big factor in what we’re going to do moving forward."