The starting offensive linemen have pretty much established themselves this spring. Lee Davis, Mike Kuykendall, and Kanan Sanchez had firm grips on their respective positions after earning starting roles in 2001. Sanchez was not a starter the whole season, but emerged and had a large role in the improvement of the line as the year went on. He is a beast at 6'3" and almost 340 pounds. He's added about 15 pounds in the last year. The one thing that will be noticeable about this line is that it is absolutely monstrous.
After spring practice, it's become pretty clear that Matt Brock will replace Chris Gibson at Center. Brock followed Gibson from Roseburg and will now follow him as the starter. Brock is quite a bit bigger than Gibson and Dennis Erickson has said that Brock could be better than Gibson by the time he leaves OSU. That is quite a statement, considering Gibson earned All-American honors as a junior. Gibson anchored the line in his time in Corvallis and it is expected that Brock will do the same.
Brock beat out David Lose and Jason Fyda for the starting slot. Lose and Fyda are both converted defensive tackles. Lose began the spring at number two, but Fyda impressed the coaches with his hard work and great improvement and moved up to the second spot on the depth chart. He was highly acclaimed coming out of Norco High School in Corona, California. Fyda was recruited by UCLA, Stanford, Colorado, Arizona, Washington State, Colorado State, and Air Force, and chose Oregon State.
Doug Nienhuis (nine-house) is also the leading candidate to fill the vacancy at right tackle left by Vincent Sandoval, who signed as a free agent with the New York Giants. Coming into spring, it was thought that Isaac Aronson, a junior transfer from Cal State-Northridge (the football program at Northridge was cut), would challenge for the role. Aronson was a bit of a disappointment. His technique is not as refined as the coaches would like. He is also slower than expected. But at the same time, he is monstrous (6'6"-320) and will earn some playing time before he is through at OSU. After getting more time to work with Offensive Line coach Gregg Smith, Aronson could get a larger role.
While Aronson disappointed a bit in practice, it surely isn't a bad thing that Nienhuis won the position. He is only a sophomore, as is Brock. Brock, Nienhuis, and Sanchez will all be sophomores in 2002 and will provide continuity on the right side for the next three seasons.
The left side of the offensive line will be a strength this year with the return of Davis and Kuykendall. Davis and Kuykendall started a combined 21 games in 2001. Experience at the offensive line positions is perhaps the most important attribute. Being successful on the line is about knowing the tricks that defensive lineman will use and being able to pick up blitzes, stunts, and recognize defenses.
Part 2 of the offensive line article will be up Tuesday.
Offensive Line Preview (Part 1)
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