Winning Up Front

On South Alabama's continuing journey into FBS football there has been one constant: stellar offensive line play. checked in with the mastermind of that unit, Coach John Turner, to hear his evaluation of their performance.

"When you're sitting there at 2-2, you tend to look at what you're not getting accomplished," said Turner. "But I will say this: These guys have fought hard all year. Sometimes we'll get a little outmatched, a little outsized, but these guys don;t even look at that. They go out there and they want to fight, they want to compete, they want to get after it every snap. We're doing some things better than we've ever done. You may look and think that we're not moving the ball as well as we have against some of the opponents in the past but we're still able to move it some in the running game. Our technique has been fantastic, we're just playing against some really good people who have designed to stop the run. I'm proud of the guys, but the thing is that we have to continue to improve. We're nowhere near where our potential is and they know that. They see it everyday in practice and they know the things they need to correct so there are some things we need to get better at."

When looking for this year's standouts, Turner looks for a pair of familiar faces at the tackle positions.

"Chris Brunson had all the potential in the world since Day One with the team. He always had the physical ability to be one of the best offensive linemen that we've had, but he got hurt last year and didn't go through spring. He's come back, he's played well. His understanding of protection is absolutely amazing. His footwork, his body positioning, all the things we're asking him to do, he's really, really done a great job. On the other side, Brian Krauskopf is a guy that we knew what he was. He's a big, physically strong guy in the weight room whose been a jack-of-all-trades. He's played up and down the line but we could never get him settled in a position. This year we've put him out there at left tackle and he's gotten better and better. Probably the greatest improvement from Day One until now has been Brian. His technique, keeping his head and shoulders back, his footwork - all the things that we emphasize he carries with him everyday out to the practice field and works hard."

Coach Turner also made it a point to praise his other linemen, Melvin Meggs, Trey Clark and Jon Griffin. Providing depth and the first candidates to fill vacancies next year are tackle Shawn Artz, who Turner praises for his constant improvement and athleticism, and Drew Dearman, a big, tough guard who gives maximum effort on every play. Junior tackle Tremain Smith, who was challenging for the starting spot on the left side before a summer injury opened the door for Krauskopf, will also be counted on next season. The biggest potential loss for next year may be starting center Trey Clark, who will have graduated and may move on to pursue his masters at a different school. That decision has yet to be made, however, and Clark may still return for his final year in a Jag uniform.

This week Turner's line must go out to Texas and face fellow new program UT-San Antonio. Turner described his expectations.

"I'm excited for the challenge. Those guys at San Antonio are a bunch of big, strong, barroom brawler tough guys. They're just tough. They've got tremendous strength. They play with great pad level. They use their hands extremely well. We've seen more talented individual players, however, as a unit, they probably play together as well as any I've seen. If you look at what they've done the last few weeks, they've gotten better and better at stopping the run, they're able to generate some pass rush. They've got a couple of guys at end who can push the edges. They're going to outsize us, which happens every week, so it's a situation where we're going to have to bring all we've got to handle it up front. They remind me of a very well-coached Lamar football team."

More challenges await the Jags this weekend and beyond, but the offensive line can be counted on to give their best effort and pave the way for more USA victories.

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