Minnesota landed a big recruit, literally and figuratively, last December when the Gophers landed the signature of 4-star offensive tackle Daniel Faalele. The subject of a 2017 Sports Illustrated profile, Faalale grew up in Melbourne, Australia, but didn’t play or follow football (as most Australian kids don’t) until a Hawaii assistant saw him lifting weights as a (massive) 15-year-old.
One thing led to another, and all of a sudden Faalele enrolled at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. Surrounded by some of the very best football recruits in the country, Faalele’s size awed even his peers along the offensive line, but he had the skillset of a little leaguer. Faalele didn’t even suit up for games for his first year on campus as he acclimated to a foreign sport in a foreign country.
He signed with Minnesota in December (the Gophers also landed two of his IMG Academy teammates) and enrolled the following month, but Gophers coaches hoped to redshirt him as he fast-tracked his novice skills to handle the defensive ends of the Big Ten.
Faalele appeared in Minnesota’s opening day win over New Mexico State, but, thanks to the new redshirt rule, that was only a quarter of his allotted appearances that wouldn’t count against his eligibility clock.
Then the Minnesota game happened.
In the midst of a 48-31 loss to Iowa on Saturday, starting right tackle Sam Schlueter surrendered three sacks in the first half, forcing coaches to insert Faalele for the second half.
And with No. 3 Ohio State up next, Minnesota coaches have no choice but to burn Faalele’s redshirt in the interest of keeping true freshman quarterback Zack Annexstad (one of Faalele’s IMG teammates) in one piece.
Everything about Faalele’s development has happened quickly. And now, six games into his college career, he’ll be asked to stonewall Chase Young and company.