Herd OLine Should be Strong

The offseason is a time for teams to work on getting bigger, faster, and stronger in preparation for the upcoming season. This is important at all positions with a football teams' depth chart, however, there is one position where it really means a bit more. That position is the offensive line.

Last season, on multiple occasions it appeared that the opposing teams' defensive lines were bullying parts of the Herd offensive line.

Marshall loses two starters from the 7 – 6, Bowl Winning, 2011 edition of the Herd. Ryan Tillman and CJ Wood both graduated after having very successful careers which included not one, but two bowl trophies.

Marshall received some excellent news when fifth year senior John Bruhin was awarded a sixth season of eligibility due to multiple injuries throughout his career. Bruhin started at right guard last season and should, provided he is healthy, maintain that roll in the upcoming campaign. Returning left guard Garrett Scott is being moved outside to right tackle. Junior college transfer, Gage Niemeyer, arrived on campus early and was able to participate in spring practice. By the time the spring session had ended, Niemeyer had emerged as the starting left tackle. He battled returning junior to be Jordan Jeffries throughout camp.

The remaining part of the interior line saw some interesting moves. For starters, Josh Lovell took over the left guard spot early in camp, and did not seem to do anything to lose that spot. Lovell enters the 2012 season as a redshirt sophomore. The same could not be said for the center position. Returning starter, 300 pound Florida native, Chris Jasperse started all 13 games last season and appeared set to retain that roll this year. However, due to some minor injuries, Jasperse did not snap much this spring, instead he played a lot of right guard. Stepping into the center spot, was a name not mentioned at all amongst Herd faithful. The first names would have expected to have been Chris Bowers, James Allen, or Anthony Spano. Spano was battling an injury, Bowers left the program, and unsung freshman walk on Channing Smith stepped into the roll.

Smith held onto the spot throughout camp. Smith is an undersized lineman, standing at 5'11', and weighing just 276 pounds. After some digging though, some other nuggets about Smith are that he is very strong. Also, he was one of the first, if not the first, player last season to earn his green stripe. Will Smith hold onto that spot until the season opens in Morgantown on September 1st is unknown at this point.

Heading into fall camp, it would appear that the line could be one of two ways, all depending on the health of Bruhin and Jasperse. If both are healthy the line would expect to be, from left to right, Niemeyer, Lovell, Jasperse, Bruhin and Scott. Smith could step in at center.

Since Head Coach Doc Holliday arrived, the depth at the line positions has been light. More often than not, Holliday, and offensive line coach Bill Legg have had to shuffle bodies around. This season though, should be different. Marshall has a plethora of talented offensive lineman set to step in and play if need be. First and foremost would expect to be Billy Rone. Rone is a junior college transfer. Rone projects to be a guard, but he has the size and athletic ability to play anywhere across the line.

Junior Alex Schooler and the aforementioned Spano also return for their junior and redshirt freshman seasons. Schooler should provide depth at both guard spots. Schooler is good enough to push both Lovell and Bruhin for playing time.

Two other guards could step in and take playing time as well. Beckley, WV lineman Clinton Van Horn came out of nowhere last season and showed he is ready to play right now. He saw a lot of first and second team reps in spring camp, and didn't do anything to dispel those thoughts. Also playing guard is Swedish strongman Sebastian Johansson. Johansson also saw quality reps this spring.

Redshirt freshman Josue Joseph also returns.

Holliday went out and pulled in a few more lineman in this past recruiting class. Center Cameron Dees, local boy Tyler Combs from nearby Kentucky, Josh Murriell and Eric Ansley also arrive on campus between now and August 1 to begin their college careers.

Holliday understands the importance of depth along the offensive line, and says he is always looking for lineman who can come in and play mean. The position is one that rarely sees freshman come in and play right away due to the increase in size and speed of the defensive lineman that they will face when compared to the high school level.

Holliday has three commitments from offensive lineman in this upcoming class. All three have those attributes which could lead them to see early playing time. Those guys are Gerald Wright, Michael Selby and Cody Collins.

Stay tuned to Herdhaven.com for further updates.

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