Our biggest gap: line play

Mitu

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After reflecting on our two losses this year, its clear to me that our biggest gap is the quality and depth of both of our lines.

On the OL side, the issue seems to be one of depth. When we have our starting 5 in, the quality of play is decent (though there’s still a gap in pass pro). But, as we saw with Dunlap out against Iowa and Faalele out against most of last night’s game, the drop off is considerable. While there are definitely schematic changes we can make (e.g. more screens and quick pass plays), the bottom line is that we need a deeper OL to compete in the Big Ten.

On defense, our inability to generate pressure by bringing 4 has deleterious effects on our entire defense. We give opposing QBs way too much time in the pocket and it shows. Even when we dial up blitzes, the ability to generate pressure is very inconsistent.

I wonder how we’re addressing these. I know we return our entire starting OL next year, but the starters aren’t the real issue. On the defensive side, I’m not sure that Mafe, Schad, etc. are the answer. Perhaps Cheney or some of the newer recruits are.
 

MGGopher

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I agree with all of this, and it was pretty obvious from game 1 all the way through yesterday. Both lines improved as the year went along (OL especially), but they're still far behind Iowa and Wisconsin, let alone OSU. Good news is they're now far ahead of teams like Nebraska, Illinois, and Maryland, all of whom MN dominated upfront on both sides. That's progress.

I trust the OL will be even better next year, but you're right the depth needs to improve. Staff talked up a couple RS this year, so hopefully they can contribute in spots. Ditto on DL. Big talent signed last year, but we'll have to wait and see what they can do in a B1G game...
 

DCinOK

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Correct. We got dominated on both side of the line. No, Big Daniel's presence would not have made a difference.
 

salzie

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We lost LOS on both sides yesterday. I'm more concerned by DL, they struggled to get pressure all season. Need some young guys to step up
 

UpAndUnder43

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Line played improved throughout the year. Was our biggest weakness when Fleck arrived and both units have improved to the point where were ahead of most mediocre/decent/good teams. We’re still behind some but we’ll get there.
 

GringaGopher

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Just like our overall W/L record has showed steady improvement so has our line play. We saw against a higher level of competition that we still have a ways to go to be elite. I believe PJF will continue to recruit well and these two groups will improve.
 

hungan1

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Whatever happened to Jason Dickson? Is he being red shirted? He has the size and the height. We could have used a body like him to replace Fa'alele. Talent-wise, I don't know where he is on the depth chart.
 

GDMFT

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If you look at verbal commits for the 2020 class Wisconsin's top four commits are O-lineman and linebackers. Gophers are 2 WR, RB, and Linebacker. Not sure we are going to get better in the trenches if we keep recruiting at the skill position vs O Lineman. I get star rankings don't mean everything but I would really focus on high end OL, DL, and LB in 2021.
 

hungan1

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I don't know how good PJ Fleck's relationship is to MN HS football coaches is. Fleck & staff should make time if they are not already doing so to get the pulse of developing young OLs in their backyard.

Wisconsin and Iowa lock their borders and usually keep all their state top linemen. They seem to always get some of our top instate recruits to boot. That has to change.

There are reasons why MN lost to Iowa and WI. One of them is linemen depth.

I saw quite a few big and tall Offensive Linemen on TV at the MN Prep Bowl. Some of those are probably going to go unnoticed and end up in the Dakota schools. We won't hear their names until they are drafted.
 

EG#9

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From the 2018 class, T's Jack York and Grant Norton are no longer with the program. Norton quit football very quickly and York transferred down quite a bit (can't recall where), but both had pretty solid offers out of high school and teams were trying to flip them late per Ryan Burns. Also from the '18 class was Juco Jason Dickson who was highly regarded but hasn't played. He has one year of eligibility left, but if he didn't play this year, it's hard to believe he will be a factor. That class also included Austin Beier and Nathan Boe as interior players. Of course Dunlap and Faalele are starting out of this class, so they spent a lot of scholarship capital on the Oline in 2018. 2017 had Blaise Andries and John Michael Schmitz who are 2 of other top 6 on the Oline. Kyle Sassasck was part of this class as well as was Ben Davis who was a JUCO with 3 years to play but walked with the Seniors on Saturday. Not hitting on either Dickson or Davis as JUCO guys (at least to this point) hurts as does losing the two developmental tackles out of the '18 class.

This is already long so I won't hit the Dline too, but it does take time to develop offensive lineman, and some of the good strength programs (Iowa, Wisconsin) have developed walk-ons and low star recruits in to major players at the nation. In general it does bother me that we don't seem to have a lineman with a nasty playing style. The media made such a big deal of the size of our offensive line, but I didn't feel like any of them look to really bury anybody.
 

OldBob53

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Very true -- most all of above. With improvement in line play Gophers might take the next step to legitimate top 10 status. Love to see Morgan and Bateman in action if Morgan given time to slice and dice..

Oh, and Winfield--is he opting out for the draft?
 

Thymanst

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A point everones missing is its flecks third year- to have maximized, mature line play the lines should be filled with red shirt seniors (established programs like wis and Iowa have ) our ol is very young - the defensive line will get better with better recruits.
 

Brandon

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If you look at verbal commits for the 2020 class Wisconsin's top four commits are O-lineman and linebackers. Gophers are 2 WR, RB, and Linebacker. Not sure we are going to get better in the trenches if we keep recruiting at the skill position vs O Lineman. I get star rankings don't mean everything but I would really focus on high end OL, DL, and LB in 2021.
That is damn interesting good observation!
 

60's Guy

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No doubt we need better line play. Surprised we only are recruiting two OL. DL I think we will miss Renner. He beat two guys quite often. Hopefully, we do have emerging talent coming there.
We did add yet another WR today to our list of recruits. Maybe one or two fall off to become new OL names?
 

btowngopher

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No doubt we need better line play. Surprised we only are recruiting two OL. DL I think we will miss Renner. He beat two guys quite often. Hopefully, we do have emerging talent coming there.
We did add yet another WR today to our list of recruits. Maybe one or two fall off to become new OL names?
Probably low oline numbers just due to the fact that the starters are so young. But still I would like to see us add one or two more.
 

60's Guy

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Young or not, we are only willing to put 6 in any game at this point. Not sure how to explain it.
 

fmlizard

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Our best hope is returning continuity. These guys will have a whole season of working together going into next year. That should show up early in a new season when a lot of other teams are still trying to get in sync - and the most important games come in the front half next year.
 

CoMn

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I'd argue our biggest weakness is not our lines but our special teams. We missed 4 points in the Iowa game and went for a 4th down instead of kicking a field goal. Would have won with a kicker (and special teams stinks on all fronts). We would have been 11-1, would have won the west, would be heading to the Rose Bowl. I agree we need more OL depth but I think we need a good special teams coach more.
 

hungan1

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Young or not, we are only willing to put 6 in any game at this point. Not sure how to explain it.
Hard to plug and play other guys when the young OL need time to gel together. It is too bad Jared Weyler graduated. They need senior leadership on the OL. It is all about timing and available personnel. They need to win as many games now as soon as possible to attract better recruits.

They are/were fixing things on the fly while they have Tyler Johnson and the other Seniors.
 
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