5. Ed Olson | LT | Junior | 6'7” 305 lbs. G ST 12 10 Photo courtesy of the University of Minnesota Athletic Department
While the Gophers lose three seniors on the offensive line from 2011, they return Olson, who is entering his third year of starting at left tackle for the Gophers. The redshirt junior will again be tasked with guarding quarterback MarQueis Gray’s blindside, but he also becomes the undisputed leader of the offensive line.
Olson is one of two upperclassmen (both juniors) on the Gophers’ very young line and at left tackle, will need to set the tone for the entire group. Last year, injuries hit the offensive line, pushing guys who would have benefitted from another year of seasoning into larger roles; Olson’s brother Tommy started three games as a true freshman due to injuries and a lack of depth. By the end of 2011, only two linemen who started against USC ended the season playing the same line position. Olson was not one of those players.
The idea this year is that hopefully enough depth exists to redshirt the incoming freshmen, that hopefully those returning have matured in Eric Klein’s offseason program — that the reported 20 pounds that each lineman has added will translate on the field and that overall, hopefully the offensive line will be much improved.
It’s probably a bad sign that I used “hope” so much in that paragraph.
Even though he stands 6-foot, 7-inches tall, Olson is not the biggest or most heralded lineman in the Gophers’ stable. He certainly isn’t among the conference’s left tackles – college football blogger Adam Jacobi ranked Olson 10th among the Big Ten’s starting left tackles. However, Olson needs to play as though he is the Gophers’ brightest star up front, especially while the more heralded but younger Jimmy Gjere continues to develop his pass protection. Olson undoubtably brings the most experience to the squad as a two-year starter. If he remains healthy, the Gophers will be able to keep some of the younger linemen on the sidelines. If Olson gets hurt or loses his position, an undersized and unprepared underclassman gets thrown into the unenviable position of trying to block William Gholston.
The offensive line will be the engine for this year’s offense. Without strong play up front, quarterback MarQueis Gray will end up with little time to throw and the running backs will again fail to make much of an impression. For Jerry Kill and Matt Limegrover’s offense to gain traction, they need the offensive line to make some room.
Olson leads that group up front.