‘Back like I never left’: Daniel Fa’alele announces return to Gophers

The University of Minnesota football team is in the middle of its offseason strength and conditioning program, and they’re hoping to get one big piece of the offensive line back for the 2021 season.

Daniel Fa’alele posted on Instagram Wednesday morning, "Back like I never left." The post includes a picture of Fa’alale lifting inside the Gophers’ football complex on campus.

Fa’alele last saw the field in the final regular season game of the 2019 season. He suffered a leg injury in the first half of Minnesota’s loss to Wisconsin with the Big Ten West title on the line. He did not return, and did not play in Minnesota’s win over Auburn in the Outback Bowl to cap off a historic 2020 season.

Fa’alele then opted out of the 2020 season due to concerns with the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the team came together for offseason strength and conditioning, he’s been seen in several videos going through drills and lifting. It’s a positive sign that P.J. Fleck and the Gophers expect to have the 400-pound offensive lineman back for the 2021 season.

He’ll provide a big boost to an offensive line that already features Conner Olson, Sam Schlueter, Blaise Andries, John Michael Schmitz, Nathan Boe and Axel Ruschmeyer among players who saw action in 2020. The Gophers are also hoping to have Curtis Dunlap Jr. back after he missed the 2020 season due to injury.

They’ll all be blocking for Mohamed Ibrahim, the Big Ten Running Back of the Year and a First Team All-Big Ten pick. Despite having two gams canceled due to COVID-19 issues, Ibrahim led the Big Ten in rushing yards (1,076) and rushing touchdowns (15).