MINNEAPOLIS — The Gophers’ Sam Schlueter was yanked from his spot at right tackle at halftime of last season’s 48-31 loss to Iowa. He had given up multiple sacks, and as he took a seat on the bench, his confidence was in tatters.

The next week, Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck insisted, “Schlueter is very important for our football team. He’s going to be important for our football team now and important for our football team in the future.”

Schlueter had doubts — in himself. “I was lacking it a little bit more then, for sure,” he said of his confidence.

Schlueter didn’t start in the final eight games of 2018, but reemerged as an extra offensive lineman/massive tight end in Minnesota’s “heavy” formations. He contributed to convincing wins over Wisconsin and Georgia Tech to end the season.

“That helped build that confidence back up, and I went through spring ball and everything, and now I’m where I’m at,” Schleuter said.

Schlueter reemerged as the Gophers’ starting left tackle this season, often coming out of games as the highest-graded offensive lineman and the label of “Mr. Consistent” from Fleck. Schlueter is expected to start against Iowa at 3 p.m. Saturday at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City.

The Gophers’ preseason competition at left tackle, with the departure of Donnell Greene, was perhaps the team’s biggest preseason question mark, in part, because of Schlueter struggles on the edge against the Hawkeyes.

Fleck stresses players be well rounded off the field with “socially” being one of the tenants, so if the football aspect isn’t going well at that moment, they don’t feel deflated.

“I think when football is just the main thing, at times, people will lose interest,” Fleck said. “When good things happen, they will be fine; when bad things happen, they will be sad. I think he had to be able to gain consistency in his whole life.”

In the Big Ten opener this fall, the Gophers started mixing in John Michael Schmitz as some of the play on the primary five slipped in nonconference games. Now that the level of play has picked up, the Gophers have been rotating Schmitz in with Schlueter, Daniel Faalele, Curtis Dunlap, Conner Olson and Blaise Andries.

Against Penn State, the Gophers used six offensive linemen in a “heavy” formation, paving the way for a run game that produced 121 yards against a defense that entered the game allowing 68. The also allowed only one sack against dangerous pass rushers like NFL prospect Yetur Gross-Matos.

The versatility of playing six O-linemen helps when you put all on the field at once.

“It just gives us the ability to show different looks and do the same things,” Fleck said. “Get more guys on the field, provide more gaps and make it a little more difficult for the defenses. Simple us, complex them.”

The Gophers will face another tough defense Saturday. The Hawkeyes are ranked 20th in the nation in rushing defense, allowing 112.4 yards per game.

Schlueter will be ready for redemption, with some help from the community he grew up in Victoria, Minn., and at Mayer Lutheran High School.

“He called me ‘Mr. Consistent,’” Schlueter said of Fleck. “but I have to keep working my way up, too.”