Coverdale, King aim to start at tackle

Patrick Ward, a departing senior, leaves Northwestern with big shoes to fill at the important blindside tackle position. That vacancy has the attention of the Wildcats' two incoming tackles, Sam Coverdale and Blake King, who are vying to win the job.

It's the elephant in the room. Sam Coverdale knows there's a vacancy at Northwestern's left tackle position. So do the coaches who recruited him.

Northwestern is needing to replace departing senior tackle Patrick Ward, a mainstay on the offensive line. During Coverdale's meetings with the coaches, nothing about the open position was promised.

"And I haven't asked," Coverdale added. "To be honest, the chances aren't really important to me; I just want to show up and be as of a great of a teammate as I can."

It would be ideal for Coverdale or Northwestern's other incoming tackle, Blake King, to step onto campus and comfortably fill the shoes of Ward. However, it's not easy for that to happen. For a freshman to assume a key role like left tackle, the coaching staff will want to see proven size and athleticism that's necessary to battle with the Big Ten's best. Most importantly, consistent play must be displayed.

Currently standing at 6-foot-5, 290 pounds, King has the size and abilities to play either tackle or guard—both positions with an open starting spot. The coaching staff has yet to decide which spot best suits him. Where does he hope to play?

"The best position for me to get on the field as soon as possible," King said.

During each of its last three recruiting classes (2013 included), Northwestern has welcomed four offensive linemen to the program. There is plenty of talented depth for the coaches to pick from, meaning each lineman must improve in order to compete for a starting job.

Coverdale's foremost priority is to develop during the offseason. His 6-foot-7 frame suits that of a Big Ten tackle, but he weighs in at just 270 pounds. He hopes to add some size before arriving on campus.

"If they need me at that spot, that's awesome," Coverdale said. "If they need me to fill the body of a Big Ten offensive tackle, I'm totally content with doing that. I'm excited to work for the opportunity. It'll be fun."

While Coverdale's primary focus is on improvement and not early playing time, the opportunity to start as a freshman serves as incentive to get better.

"It's definitely motivating," he said. "That's the end goal you're working toward as an incoming freshman—to get that starting job."

Northwestern's offensive line, once filled with veteran leadership, features just 39 starts and two returning players. There will be a youth movement in order to fill the voids.

"We're super excited and we're ready to get after it," King said. "We're ready to go."

Chris Emma has covered recruiting, college athletics and professional baseball for FOX Sports Next since 2009. Emma covered the Nebraska Cornhuskers for Big Red Report, and currently covers the Northwestern Wildcats. He resides on Chicago's north side.
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