If a team can’t win the battle in the trenches it doesn’t matter who it has catching, running or throwing the ball. Offensive linemen don’t play a glamorous position, but they can be the difference between winning and losing.
In 2008, the Frogs’ O-line paved the way for the team to have one of its greatest statistical seasons in school history. The Frogs set school records for points scored with 437 and touchdowns with 56. The team was also 12th in the nation in rushing at 220.2 yards per game.
Anchoring last year’s line was three-time All-Conference selection Blake Schlueter. The center has a chance to be drafted next weekend after an impressive pro-day workout last month.
Junior center Jake Kirkpatrick is expected to fill the void for the departed Schlueter. Kirkpatrick spent the last two seasons in a reserve role and has had plenty of time to learn the position and watch one of the nation’s best.
The Frogs also lost starting guard Giles Montgomery. Junior Josh Vernon, a 6-foot-2-inch, 295-pound guard from Irving is slated to take over the vacant spot on the line.
Returning to the starting lineup will be senior tackle Marshall Newhouse, junior tackle Marcus Cannon and sophomore guard Kyle Dooley. The three were part of a line that allowed just 18 sacks in 13 games last season. Their experience should be beneficial for players filling in for the departed seniors.
The team is also stocked with backups at nearly every position. Senior tackle Nic Richmond, sophomore tackle Jeff Olson and junior guard Zach Roth all provide quality depth incase of injury or poor play.
Overall, the Frogs’ O-line should shape up nicely as September draws near.
Replacing Schlueter’s leadership and ability will be difficult, but there are several up-and-coming big men on the roster who will have a chance to solidify the line in 2009.
Matching or surpassing the success of the 2008 O-line will be vitally important for a team looking to improve upon last season’s triumphs.
Starters lost: C Blake Schlueter, OG Giles Montgomery
2009 projected starters: LT Marshall Newhouse, RT Marcus Cannon, LG Kyle Dooley, RG Josh Vernon, C Jake Kirkpatrick