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Minnesota hopes 6’9, 400-lb freshman can stop Ohio State’s strong defensive line

The Gophers will have a new starter on Saturday.

Twitter | @DanielFaalele_

Ohio State’s defensive line is arguably the best position group for the Buckeyes this season — and that’s even without Nick Bosa in the lineup. Between Dre’Mont Jones, Robert Landers, Chase Young and Jonathon Cooper— should he be active following being in concussion protocol this week— there’s plenty of strong men leading the charge.

And that’ll be really good on Saturday, when Ohio State faces Minnesota and their new starting right tackle, Daniel Faalele. The freshman is an Australia native who trained at IMG Academy and is absolutely gigantic. Faalele stands 6-foot-9 and weighs 400 pounds.

That is a large human.

According to our friends at The Daily Gopher, the plan wasn’t for Faalele to become a starter this season, the intention was actually for him to redshirt.

Faalele was inserted at right tackle in the third quarter against Iowa after Hawkeyes defensive end Anthony Nelson abused Schlueter for three sacks in the first half. He had previously only seen in action in the Gophers’ season opener against New Mexico State, as the coaching staff had hoped to limit his participation to four games, preserving his redshirt. — Blake Ruane, The Daily Gopher

Faalele only started playing football when he moved from Australia to the United States to attend the IMG Academy for his junior year of high school. During his first year in the sport, he didn’t actually play in any games, he just focused on practicing and getting better. However, as he started to play as a senior, his size and natural athleticism led him to be a sought after recruit.

Fleck had intended to use Faalele’s first season in Minnesota much like IMG did, and allow him time to just work on his skills without the pressures of competing. However, to say that the Gophers’ line has been porous would be an insult to a sponge. Minnesota has given up 13 sacks in just five games, which ranks them 90th nationally with 2.6 sacks per game.

Admittedly, if the experiment of Faalele in the starting lineup doesn’t pan out for Fleck, the Australian could still play in up to four games and maintain his redshirt. But, if he is able to improve upon his potential, it could be worth it for Fleck to keep him in the boat permanently.

Faalele’s size alone presents a bit of a challenge for defensive linemen, as they will simply just have to cover more ground to get around him. However, if he is unable to get out of his stance quickly, and establish position against the rush, Young, Landers, and whatever members of the OSU defensive line are healthy, could have a fairly easy path to Minnesota’s true freshman quarterback Zack Annexstad, who played with Faalele at IMG last year.