New Gophers offensive line coach Ed Warinner has worked with some of college football’s biggest coaching names, including Urban Meyer, Nick Saban and Brian Kelly.
Warinner came to Minnesota in January with 20 years of experience as an offensive line coach. But he’s never experienced something like this, with the Gophers going through spring practice with only five healthy offensive linemen.
Last week, when only four linemen were healthy, the Gophers couldn’t do any full-speed, 11-on-11 drills for three practices.
“I’ve been where we have low numbers, but it’s been more in the nine or eight category, not quite down where we’re at,” Warinner said Tuesday. “So it makes it challenging. But the great thing is, the way we’ve organized practice, the way Coach [P.J.] Fleck’s put it together, I think we’re still getting a lot accomplished.”
Three returning starters — Garrison Wright, Vincent Calhoun and Jared Weyler — are recovering from surgeries. All are expected back to full strength for fall camp, and the Gophers just signed a junior college transfer, Ben Davis, who will join them this summer.
“Those guys should acclimate fast to the new offensive system,” Warinner said. “You know, football players are football players, and they’re pretty good. So I’m excited about the opportunity here, just because I think this is a gold mine.”
Warinner spent the previous five seasons at Ohio State. He and Tim Beck served as co-offensive coordinators for the Buckeyes, under Meyer, after Tom Herman left to become head coach at the University of Houston following Ohio State’s 2014 national championship season.
Ohio State made the College Football Playoff again last season but lost 31-0 to Clemson in the semifinals. Meyer made swift changes, hiring former Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson as offensive coordinator and Ryan Day, who worked under Chip Kelly with the NFL Eagles and 49ers, as the new quarterbacks coach.
It didn’t take Warinner long to find another job.
“He’s one of the greatest offensive line coaches in the country,” Fleck said. “He could probably go to any NFL team right now and be the offensive line coach there. He’s got such a reputation. And what I love is guys who have been coordinators.”
An Ohio native who graduated from Mount Union, Warinner worked with Saban at Michigan State in the mid-80s. Warinner coached with Mark Mangino at Kansas and worked for Brian Kelly at Notre Dame before heading to Ohio State.
“When I got a chance to hire him, first of all, it was like is he really interested in coming to work for me?” Fleck said. “He talked specifically about people he’s coached and what they’ve meant to him, and that’s when I knew he was for me.
“You can win games, you can win championships, you can do all those things. But to change a life, and inspire and motivate, and be mentors for people — that’s what life’s about. Rings and other things get dusty and they get put away, but those relationships are forever.”
McLaurin to transfer
Neil McLaurin, a quarterback who signed with the Gophers in December before then-coach Tracy Claeys was fired, plans to transfer. McLaurin is a dual-threat QB from Southwest Mississippi Community College.
“We’re going to help him find another spot,” Fleck said. “I wish him all the best as he continues to move forward.”