Each starter on Gophers offensive line earns spot on all-Big Ten team
Tackle Daniel Faalele and guard Blaise Andries were named to the first team, becoming the first pair of Minnesota linemen to receive that honor since center Greg Eslinger and guard Mark Setterstrom in 2005.
MINNEAPOLIS — The Gophers offensive line was the most consistent unit on that side of the ball in 2021, and every member of that group was recognized as all-Big Ten on Tuesday.
Tackle Daniel Faalele and guard Blaise Andries were named to the first team, becoming the first pair of Minnesota linemen to receive that honor since center Greg Eslinger and guard Mark Setterstrom in 2005. Eslinger and Setterstrom were the last U O-linemen taken in the NFL draft in 2006, and Faalele is expected to snap that drought this spring.
Gophers center John Michael Schmitz and guard Conner Olson were named to the second and third teams, respectively. Tackle Sam Schlueter, tight end Ko Kieft and receiver Chris Autman-Bell received honorable mention.
Despite losing three primary running backs to season-ending injuries, the offensive line continued to pave a way for two young tailbacks — Ky Thomas and Mar’Keise Irving — to keep having success. The Gophers finished 30th in the nation in rushing, averaging 193 yards per game.
Kieft was the No. 3 graded tight end in the nation and No. 1 among those in Power Five conferences, according to Pro Football Focus, but the sixth-year senior’s receiving numbers were a fraction of the four players receiving bigger honors from the conference’s coaches and media: Wisconsin’s Jake Ferguson, Nebraska’s Austin Allen, Iowa’s Sam LaPorta and Indiana’s Peyton Hendershot.
Only Olson and Andries were part of all-Big Ten teams in 2020, making the third team.
Factor in OC hiring
Gophers head coach P.J. Fleck’s philosophy is to have the offensive coordinator also be the quarterbacks coach; that was evident with Kirk Ciarrocca and went into the 2020 hiring of Mike Sanford Jr., who was let go Monday after two seasons.
While it could end up being split, those paired job duties remain Fleck’s preferred plan of action as he hires a new member of his offensive coaching staff.