Minnesota is making a change in its starting lineup when it plays at Ohio State on Saturday and it is a big one. A really big one.
Daniel Falalele, a 6-foot, 9-inch, 400-pound freshman will get his first start at right tackle for Minnesota on an offensive line which has allowed 13 sacks in five games.
Faalele is in only his second year of playing football. He grew up in Melbourne, Australia and moved to the United States in 2016 to play for IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
He spent his junior year of high school learning about football. He had never watched a football game before he got to IMG and one of the coaches there said he didn’t even know what a first down was.
Faalele played the 2017 season for IMG and had offers from Alabama and Michigan, among others, before choosing Minnesota.
Originally Minnesota’s plan was to play him in up to four games this year and redshirt him. But when the player he is replacing was victimized for three sacks in a 48-31 loss to Iowa last week, the plan changed.
“Daniel is a guy that can handle a lot,” Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck said in his weekly press conference. “I think back and in March and April I probably wouldn’t have said he was ready yet.
“He did pretty well when he was in there,” Fleck said. “He’s got to get a lot better, but he’s fully committed to making himself a really good football player.”
PASS DEFENSE STRUGGLES: When Ohio State cornerbacks coach Taver Johnson was asked Tuesday if he was happy with how the players at that position have played, he said, “I don’t think any of us are.”
Cornerback Damon Arnette said the Buckeyes cornerbacks have not played up to expectations and said they are “definitely not to our potential yet.”
After Indiana quarterback Peyton Ramsey threw for a career-best 322 yards, 239 of them in the first half last Saturday, OSU safety Jordan Fuller said, “In the first half that wasn’t us, that wasn’t us at all.
“Sometimes it’s a technique issue, sometimes it’s a 50-50 all they might get. Other times it’s taking different angles or missing tackles. It’s a bunch of things,” he said.
BY THE NUMBERS: Ohio State has won 44 times in the 51 times it has played Minnesota. OSU had a 37-2 record against the Gophers since 1969 and Minnesota’s last win in the series in 2000 in Columbus.
Ohio State and Minnesota played each other only five times between 1920 and 1941 even though both were members of the Big Ten all that time.
Defensive lineman Jashon Cornell is the only player from Minnesota on Ohio State’s roster. Minnesota has six players from Ohio on its roster.
OSU BEGINNINGS: Fleck had was a graduate assistant at Ohio State for seven months in 2006 after he was cut by the San Francisco 49ers.