February 19, 2007

Who will lead the way?

If there is one area of the team that the new Minnesota coaching staff need not worry about it is the offensive line. With only two seniors graduating and plenty of young talent with some game experience waiting in the wings offensive line coach Phil Meyer should have no problem putting together a line that can protect the quarterback and open up holes for the running back.

Returning Starters: Center Tony Brinkhaus, right guard Ned Tavale, left tackle Steve Shidell

The Contenders:

There is very little reason to believe that Tony Brinkhaus, Steve Shidell, and Ned Tavale will not start somewhere on the offensive line in 2007. Shidell started every game except the bowl game at left tackle and was improved in his first full year as a starter. Tavale started every game as a redshirt freshman and fits the big and mobile mold that Tim Brewster is looking for in an offensive lineman. Brinkhaus made a solid transition to the center position after starting most of 2005 at right tackle. He has the most position flexibility of any of the lineman on the team could be a candidate to move to either right tackle or left guard depending on the team's needs.

Sophomore Matt DeGeest has a leg up on the rest of the competition when it comes to a starting job after starting two games in 2006. He started at left guard against Wisconsin and a left tackle against Texas Tech. At 6-foot-5, he is likely a better fit to play tackle, but could play at either spot.

Fellow sophomore Ryan Ruckdashel was the favorite to earn the right guard job heading in to last season. He lost out to Tavale, but is a very talented player who has drawn comparisons to Mark Setterstrom. Much like DeGeest he could use some time in the weight room to bulk up, but is mobile and a good tactician on the line.

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