Would you be afraid of a 6-foot-3, 300-pound lineman? Probably. But what if he's the type of guy that likes to get pedicures. Still scared? Maybe not as much?
Well, despite the fact that SMU's offensive linemen like to pamper themselves (starting left tackle Kelvin Beachum says he and quarterback Kyle Padron get pedicures together every year), this group has a mean streak and is ready to hit some defenses in the mouth this season.
"Controlled violence," offensive line coach Adrian Klemm said as a phrase he likes to use with his players. "One thing we try to emphasize is when we turn on the film [from previous games], we want to see that they look the same on the first play and the 64th play. I tell them, ‘Finish, finish, finish.' We want to be relentless every single play."
This year's O-line is a veteran group with the starting five all being seniors. The Mustangs have Beachum at left tackle, Josh LeRibeus at left guard, Blake McJunkin at center, Kelly Turner at right guard, J.T. Brooks at right tackle and they've all been playing with each other for four years.
As far as depth and versatility go, SMU has quality but not quantity. Sophomore Ben Gottschalk, who is the main backup at both tackle spots, can play all five positions. Then there's senior Bryce Tennison, who can play any of the three spots inside, junior Jordan Free, who can rotate at both guard positions and junior Bryan Collins, who also backs up both guards.Four true freshmen – Dontae Levingston, Taylor Reich, Taylor Lasecki and Kris Weeks – haven't quite learned the ropes yet, but Klemm is confident in their talent and says they'll be good players for the program in the future.
Beachum said that out of the five starters, who together average 310 pounds, McJunkin is probably the most athletic and Turner, who has maxed out on the bench press at 405 lbs. six times, is the strongest.
"I take pride in being a 6-2, 305 guy who can still wakeboard and play golf and play baseball and letter in three sports in high school," McJunkin said.
Football games are won in the trenches and offensive lines usually make or break a team. So not only is it important to have experience and chemistry on the field, but it's crucial for the unit to have a relationship off it.
"We're a close-knit group," Klemm said. "We go out to breakfast on home games on Fridays, we go to dinner at least once a week, the guys have barbeques."
Said Beachum: "We love each other. We're right beside each other in the locker room, we live together, eat together, have fun together…"
Running back Zach Line noted that he's seen improvements from the line from last season to now.
"They're more mature, more confident," Line said. "The other day I saw a couple times there were some blitzes that they might not have picked up on last year because they're tough looks, but now they're picking them up with ease. And that makes my job a lot easier."Beachum has noticed a chance in the group as well. They're hungry for success and have an aggressive mindset heading into the season.
"Something about this year feels different," he said. "We're practicing with a purpose. Practicing with a tempo. We've worked our butts off this summer. We've fine-tuned our focus."