The evidence is all on film, Matt Limegrover said, so there's no escaping the conclusion. To put it bluntly: Chris Bunders is a dirtbag.

"I mean that as a compliment," the Gophers offensive coordinator said.

Bunders wasn't so sure at first, Limegrover said of his film-room analysis with the Gophers' starting left guard, so he defined the term. Limegrover told Bunders that on the offensive line, a dirtbag "finds a way to get it done, no matter what it takes. It may not always be the most legal thing, but he finds a way somehow. And he irritates the guy he's going against, to the point where he gets frustrated."

Sounds like a pretty valuable player.

"In O-line circles, it's a not a bad thing. You've got to be a little bit of a dirtbag to play well," Limegrover said. "Chris is a good-technique kid, and a very smart, heady player. But he's been around the block so many times, he just knows a lot about how to get the job done."

Bunders has started 28 games since coming to Minnesota from Osseo High School, more than any other player on the 2012 Gophers, and that experience means a lot as Limegrover and new coach Jerry Kill rebuild the offense with an unusually young roster.

Minnesota will start a trio of upperclassmen in the middle of the line, with senior Ryan Orton opposite Bunders on the right side, and junior Ryan Wynn at center. Other than that, however, the Gophers have nothing but freshmen and sophomores among the other dozen linemen.

"Those three are our wily veterans, and we need their experience," Limegrover said. "There really isn't an older guy who takes over -- they all have their moments. It's kind of a three-headed monster, as far as leadership."

That's by design, Bunders said. At 22, he might be the oldest and most experienced pass-blocker, but offensive line isn't a position where individualism pays off, he said.

"Hopefully some of my experience pays off, but it's more important that we all work together. If I can be a voice in that, more power to us," Bunders said. "Going out there as one offensive line, instead of five individuals, that's what we want. If we can do that, we'll be fine."

Still, he has made nearly as many starts as his four fellow projected starters combined, and he has lived through a lot, including last year's 3-9 disappointment, in which the Gophers ranked last in the Big Ten in rushing yardage. All that hardship has to pay off now, the Maple Grove native said.

"I like to think so. I'm getting older, and you earn every day," he said. "Going through all that stuff can only make me a better player."

And an even better dirtbag.