SMU had one of its most experienced groups in years with an entire line of talented and accomplished seniors. Josh LeRibeus and Kelvin Beachum were both drafted this past spring and J.T. Brooks also made the honorable mention all-conference team.
The void left by this group of offensive linemen will be tough to replace and their veteran leadership and experience helped the Mustangs to one of their most successful years. As a unit, the paved the way for running back Zach Line's impressive year, which ranked second all-time on the SMU single season rushing list behind legend Eric Dickerson.
After losing all of the starters from the 2011 season, the 2012 unit will undoubtedly be the one group under the most pressure to perform with a new quarterback, an All-American caliber back in Line and a talented, but inexperienced group of receivers.
Junior Ben Gottschalk is the projected starter at left tackle and redshirt freshman Taylor Lasecki at center. They are the untested players along the line, but the rest of the projected starters have had plenty of experience in their past four years at SMU.
While many would assume senior Blake McJunkin would be back at center, McJunkin spoke in the spring about redshirt freshman Taylor Lasecki's emergence as a possible starter at center because of his strong play. McJunkin is the most experienced player along the line and will be a starter whether it is at guard or center.
Bryan Collins is the assumed starter at right tackle after having at least two starts at tackle each of the past three seasons. Senior Jordan Free was holding down the left guard spot during the spring and will probably still be in that role when the Mustangs open their season at Baylor.
The wild card for the offensive line is LSU transfer Stavion Lowe, who will be eligible to play immediately for the Mustangs. Lowe is expected to challenge for the right tackle spot and if he earns it, the line will most likely see Collins moving to right guard and McJunkin back to center.
The key for the 6-foot-5, 300-pound tackle is communication and picking up the complicated blocking schemes that even few freshmen master. Lowe is a former four-star recruit who had over three-dozen offers so talent is not the issue with this young man. It's simply understanding the scheme and getting back to football shape.
Gottschalk has the most important role along the line because he will be charged with protecting the quarterback's blind side. Whether that is incoming quarterback Garrett Gilbert or Conner Preston is another discussion, but with a new quarterback there will be a need for Gottschalk to be at his best so the offense can operate at its full potential.
This spring, Gottschalk sat out with a back injury along with fellow lineman Taylor Reich, who was out with an injury to his leg, but both expect to be back and 100 percent for fall camp.
The offensive line is the key to the Run N' Shoot working because they communicate the blocking schemes and all the blitz pickups. Communication is key and becoming a cohesive unit that is a family is the most important thing because the beginning of the season is filled with top-notch competition for the Mustangs.
The offensive line will be where SMU can look back on and say we won those games because the quarterback had time, Line had room to run and the receivers had time to develop and get into their routes. For the Mustangs, the line's development will be the key to a successful season and finally winning a Conference USA championship.
New Position Coach: Bob Palcic takes over for Adrian Klemm, who left after four seasons at SMU for UCLA and left behind a huge void for Palcic to fill not only as a coach, but also as a recruiter. Palcic has coached three Outland Trophy winners during his 40-plus years of coaching experience. At UCLA where he spent four seasons, he was Associate Head Coach- Offense and offensive line coach and before that, was at Wisconsin for the 2006 and 2007 season, where he coached Outland Trophy winners Gabe Carimi and Joe Thomas. Palcic coached with June Jones in Atlanta from 1994-96 where he led the offensive line for Jones' Run N' Shoot offense.
Pony Stampede Two-Deep:
LT- 1. Ben Gottschalk 2. Kris Weeks
LG- 1. Jordan Free 2. Christian Miller
C- 1. Taylor Lasecki 2. Blake McJunkin
RG- 1. Blake McJunkin 2. Bryan Collins
RT- 1. Bryan Collins 2. Stavion Lowe
Others to watch:
R-Fr. Taylor Reich, Fr. Seaver Myers, So. Ben Hughes, So. Ashton Duhe, Fr. Christian Chamagua
Position Preview: Offensive Line
Pony Stampede Top Stories
Three Up Three Down: SMU vs. TCUPatrick picks three ups and three downs from SMU's 33-3 loss vs. TCU on Friday night at Ford Stadium.
Pony StampedeFriday at 9:00 PM
Rapid Reaction: SMU vs. TCUSMU lost to TCU 33-3 on Friday night at Ford Stadium to drop to 2-2 on the season.
Pony StampedeFriday at 2:29 PM
FREE Pony Stampede Hilltop Review: Sept. 23Come inside this free edition of the Pony Stampede Hilltop Review with the latest on SMU commits and visitors from last week's win over Liberty.
Pony StampedeFriday at 6:00 AM
Commitment Impact: Everett RaySMU landed its second 2017 commitment Thursday with forward Everett Ray’s pledge. PonyStampede breaks down his decision.
Pony StampedeThursday at 6:00 AM
Elijah Landrum talks commitment to SMU2017 point guard Elijah Landrum talked with Pony Stampede about his decision to commit to SMU.