Ah, to be young and free. Blaise Andries showed Tuesday, Aug. 3, what that can mean when you’re living the college life.
To be clear, the Gophers offensive lineman isn’t milking that lifestyle. He’s an academic All-American with an undergraduate degree in Mathematics-Actuarial Science, and he’s working on his masters in Applied Business Analytics.
But the Marshall, Minn., native is not concerning himself with button-down professional appearances just yet. Hence, the shoulder-length hair and stubbly-mustache look he wore for his various photo and video shoots at Gophers media day sessions Tuesday. His maroon No. 77 jersey was accessorized by six — six! — wristbands, a look more befitting of some showoff receiver or defensive back.
“We always do it as a joke,” Andries said about the array of white Nike sweatbands. “Our teammates might do it to be serious, but we just like to joke around with it.”
Andries has started 33 straight games for the Gophers since 2018, and because the fifth-year player is earnest about what he does in the classroom and on the field, he can bring a different vibe at other times.
With plenty of time to set up the Sept. 2 season-opener against Ohio State, let’s sprinkle in some lighter moments before the impending grind of preseason camp, which kicks off Wednesday.
So, Blaise, who has the best hair up front? “It’s either me or (O-lineman) Austin Beier, but Beier hasn’t done any coloring to his hair, so I have the one-up on him,” Adries said, revealing his sandy blonde look isn’t natural.
The Gophers have organically built up their bonafides since Adries’ arrival, with Phil Steele’s 2021 College Football Preview deeming the Gophers the most-experienced team in all of college football to start this season. The offensive line’s combined 181 starts trails only the Miami Hurricanes (190) in FBS.
Add in some veteran tight ends — including Ko Kieft, and his flowing red hair — and the run-heavy packages will be full of grizzled vets “(Kieft’s) got the mullet, looking good as well,” Adries affirmed.
Besides the guys who have been in Dinkytown for a half-decade or more, the Gophers have added even more experience through the transfer portal, with defensive tackles Nyles Pinckney (Clemson) and Val Martin (N.C. State), and linebacker Jack Gibbens (Abilene Christian). That trio is expected to reinforce a unit that brought down Minnesota, especially early on, in a 3-4 season in 2020.
Elsewhere, they added offensive lineman Karter Shaw (Utah State), receiver Dylan Wright (Texas A&M) and three specialists, led by kicker Matthew Trickett (Kent State).
With 20 of 22 starters back from a year ago, head coach P.J. Fleck said he knows his team well and can trust his players.
“You know what they’ve done on the field, their past experiences,” Fleck said. “… You have a lot of the answers in front of you. This isn’t a group, like the one offensive line, where you have to find out what they’re like, find out how good they are.”
The Gophers' experienced O-line paved the way for Mo Ibrahim to be selected Big Ten running back of the year, while keeping quarterback Tanner Morgan to less than two sacks per game in 2020.
The Gophers are now looking to seize the opportunity as one of the most-experienced teams — in an era when a lot of programs have a ton of guys back due to the NCAA not counting eligibility because of COVID-19 last season. In spring practices, they went hard as Fleck wanted to set a tone.
“It was way more physical,” said defensive tackle Micah Dew-Treadway, who is entering his seventh collegiate season.
Conner Olson thought last season was going to be his “last go-round,” so the offensive guard/center grew out a “hybrid mullet.” But now he says with in-person classes returning, he can’t just turn off his Zoom camera during sessions, and wants to look proper as he heads back into classrooms and works on applying to medical schools.
“I decided to go for a slightly more professional look,” Olson said Tuesday, with his brown hair cut short. “I bleached it (last year), but there is purple shampoo, which is, I guess, what you are supposed to use when you dye your hair or bleach your hair that color. But I’m a guy, and I didn’t know about that until a month later. My hair had turned a golden brown, more orange than anything.”
Sounds like the Gophers’ 2020 season, which went sideways. But now with a deep team the Gophers have goals on the field, and Andries has one off it.
“If I’m not on that all-hair team, I’ll tell you what,” the massive 6-foot-6, 335-pound man warned in a playfully sarcastic tone.