If an offensive line is the foundation of a football team, the solid blocks upon which ball control and big plays are built, then the Gophers left spring practice in need of some shoring up.
A tumultuous offseason saw veterans Tyler Moore and Connor Mayes transfer, while surgeries to starters Jared Weyler, Vincent Calhoun and Garrison Wright left the Gophers threadbare up front, with only six linemen available for spring practice.
But health, and hope, are on their way back. By Aug. 10, coach P.J. Fleck expects a full roster available for contact drills.
Included in that group is Weyler, who tore a triceps in the Nov. 12 game at Nebraska, missed the rest of the season, underwent surgery and now has declared himself ready to go.
“In terms of rehab, it’s going really well,” said Weyler, a junior who was the offensive line’s spokesman for Monday’s media day ahead of Tuesday’s first camp session. “… I feel great, honestly, going into fall camp. I’m really happy where I’m at.”
Weyler, who started six games at left guard and two at right guard last year, is expected to slide over to center, where he’d replace Moore, who started 20 consecutive games before transferring to Oklahoma State.
Weyler even was named to the Rimington Trophy watch list for the award given to the nation’s top center. “It was cool at first, but there’s a lot of work that’s got to be done,” he said. “I don’t really think about it a whole lot.”
Based on last year’s depth chart and spring practice observations, Weyler could be joined up front by Donnell Greene at one tackle spot, with Wright at the other, Calhoun at one guard spot with either Conner Olson, Bronson Dovich or Quinn Oseland at the other guard.
Another lineman to watch is freshman Blaise Andries, the Marshall, Minn., product who is considered the Gophers’ top incoming recruit.
Weyler doesn’t expect a drop-off, even with the uncertainties surrounding the line.
“We return a few guys from last year, and I really, really like it, the way some young guys are developing,” Weyler said. “… We’ll have to adapt to the new offense and new system, and find the best five essentially to play.”
Deciding those best five will be the job of Ed Warinner, the offensive line coach and run game coordinator. Warinner, who spent the past two seasons as Ohio State’s offensive coordinator and three before that as the Buckeyes’ co-offensive coordinator, quickly impressed Weyler.
“He’s a really, really good teacher,” the Dayton, Ohio, native said. “In position meetings, he makes sure we’re all on the same page in terms of defining a block. He makes sure that we all think the same way.”
Weyler also took on the role of a teacher during spring practice while recovering from the triceps surgery.
“I learned a lot about myself during spring ball, because I had to find a way to lead the young guys while I was still on the sideline,” he said.
Added defensive tackle Steven Richardson: “Even when he wasn’t playing, he was a leader off the field.”