Pleasant Surprises For Minnesota Through Two Weeks

There were a lot of questions for the Gophers heading into the 2022 season. Here are some pleasant surprises for Minnesota after two weeks.

While a 2-0 start for the Gophers was fairly predictable, the extent to which they’ve dominated opponents was less so. (Especially after the Bowling Green debacle last year). Certain position groups lost major contributors, but so far have performed quite well. Among the standouts are several members of the December 2019 signing class. Here are some of the pleasant surprises for Minnesota through the first two games:

Minnesota Position Groups with the Most Surprises

Offensive Line

This is a big surprise, no pun intended. With four of five starters gone from last season, there were major questions about how well this group could possibly perform. But through two games, quarterback Tanner Morgan hasn’t been sacked, and the Gophers have rushed for a combined 604 yards. Sophomore Aireontae Ersery, the youngest member of the unit, had a particularly good game against Western Illinois. Given his youth and inexperience, he’s been an especially pleasant surprise thus far.


Mariano Sori-Marin is off to a strong start. In both games so far, he’s been making plays all over the field, and already has 10 total tackles. Josh Aune, who missed all of last season due to injury, picked up where he left off in 2020. However, the big surprise so far has been Cody Lindenberg. Playing in place of Braelen Oliver against Western Illinois, Lindenberg led the team in tackles with six. He’s making a case to remain in the lineup, as part of a rotation if not as a starter.

Another linebacker who’s played well is Derik LeCaptain. The former walk-on is back at linebacker after a stint on offense a year ago.

Defensive Line

With ends Boye Mafe and Esezi Otomewo off to the NFL, this was probably the area of biggest concern going into the season. But it’s actually been one of the most pleasant surprises for Minnesota so far. Thomas Rush and Trill Carter have stepped in nicely as upperclassmen, and a subset of younger guys have successfully rotated in. Sophomores Jalen Logan-Redding, Danny Striggow, and Jah Joyner have all played well when their numbers are called. This will be a unit to watch against the Big Ten, but more on that next week.

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Looking Ahead

Just one non-conference game remains for the Gophers, as Minnesota faces Colorado this weekend at home. It’s a rematch from a year ago when the Gophers thumped the Buffaloes 30-0 in Boulder. On paper, the game shouldn’t be any more competitive this year. Minnesota has won its first two games by a total of 100-10, while 0-2 Colorado has been outscored 79-23. This will be a good last chance to get the younger Gophers some live reps before a major test next week at Michigan State.

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