Fall Camp Preview: Offensive Line

SMU football practices begin soon so here's a look at the offensive line!

Last year's offensive line had to help fill in the giant shoes left behind by some of SMU's most productive lineman in years, led by Kelvin Beachum and Josh LeRibeus, who landed with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Washington Redskins, respectively.

This year will be no different, as Mustang veterans such as Blake McJunkin, Bryan Collins and Jordan Free have graduated from the program and leave mammoth holes to fill up front in the trenches for the SMU offense.

Luckily SMU returns a few experienced linemen who can help ease the transition, lead by redshirt sophomore Taylor Lasecki. Lasecki had a tremendous year last season for the Mustangs, as in his first full season as a starter. He started every game for the Mustangs and was named to the Conference USA All-Freshman team.

Lasecki came to SMU as a three star recruit after a highly productive high school career that included being named first team All-District. Entering last season, Lasecki was labeled as the wild card and possible weakness of an otherwise strong offensive line, yet by seasons end had established himself as a highly valuable cog in the SMU offense.

This season, in order to help lead the transition of the SMU offensive line, Lasecki must make the personal transition from an inexperienced freshman to game proven sophomore who will be looked upon to help mentor younger players.

Assisting Laseck in leading the younger, less experienced linemen, is senior left tackle Ben Gottschalk. Coming all the way from California as a three-star recruit, Gottschalk is coming off a year where he started 12 of the Mustangs 13 games.

Gottschalk, responsible with protecting quarterback Garrett Gilbert's blindside, will also be responsible for helping improve the chemistry of an offensive line that will add three starters with little playing experience on the starting unit.

Opposite Gottschalk is redshirt freshman Seaver Myers. The 6-foot-6, 290-pound right tackle may have been SMU's most coveted recruit in the 2012 class, as he held offers from top tier programs such as Texas A&M.

Last season, Myers saw a bit of action in the opening game against Baylor, but suffered an injury to the hand during the game and was forced to miss the rest of the season.

Myers, who enters this season will virtually no playing experience, will have an opportunity to show why he held such prestigious offers. But must hold off guys like Taylor Reich, Chauncey Briggs and Chase Walling.

With both guard positions wide open, three candidates exist to fill the position.

Thomas Aschcraft, a transfer from Texas will have the best chance to grab a starting job this fall. Ashcraft played as a reserve last season in all 13 games for the Longhorns.

Unlike fellow transfer Stavion Lowe, Ashcraft comes to the Hilltop with playing experience under his belt, and at a playing weight, as he has been able to train with Texas for the past few seasons.

Ashcraft certainly has the inside track to whichever guard position he pleases, but the same can't be said to his two main competitors, Sam Rice and Kris Weeks.

Both Rice and Weeks have no starting experience between them, but the battle for playing time may have to do more with size, rather than experience or skill. Rice, at 6-foot-4, 287-pounds is a smaller, quicker offensive lineman, who fits the size better for a prototypical guard, while Weeks is much bigger at 6-foot-5, 310-pounds.

With Ashcraft a almost guarantee to take a spot, the Mustang coaches will have to chose between putting a smaller guard opposite Ashcraft to counteract his size, or placing another mammoth guard next to Ashcraft, giving SMU a much bigger front five.

Pony Stampede Two-Deep:

Left Tackle: 1. Ben Gottschalk 2. Chauncy Briggs

Left Guard: 1. Thomas Ashcraft 2. Sam Rice

Center: 1. Taylor Lasecki 2. Ben Hughes

Right Guard: 1. Kris Weeks 2. Christian Miller

Right Tackle: 1. Seaver Myers 2. Chase Walling

Others to watch: Taylor Reich, Stavion Lowe, Christian Chamagua, Travis Fister

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