Player Profile Series: Ben Gottschalk

Our player profile series continues with a look at OL Ben Gottschalk!

Ben Gottschalk

Position: Offensive Tackle

Year: Senior

Size: 6-5, 293

High School: Notre Dame (CA)

Recruitment: Gottschalk was a three-star prospect and signed with SMU after receiving offers from Kansas, Colorado State, San Diego State, Iowa State, Nevada and UNLV. Former SMU offensive line coach Adrian Klemm recruited him out of Notre Dame High School, where he was an All-CIF Pac-5 Division First-Team selection. Gottschalk was named the Serra League Most Valuable Lineman and was named to numerous other watch lists and teams for his play in high school.

2012 Review: Gottschalk was a part of an offensive line that gave up 2.42 sacks per game, which is not ideal at all and even though the team posted top-10 school efforts in scoring, total offense, passing yards and passing TDs, the offensive line will have to improve their pass blocking.

The Mustangs run a solid run blocking scheme and should only get better at that with more running plays added by Hal Mumme, but where SMU quarterback Garrett Gilbert's senior season will live and die is with pass blocking.

There were times that Gilbert took sacks, which were cause by holding the ball too long, but some were also a breakdown by the offensive line in pass blocking. Gilbert was still getting used to the offense last year, but his left tackle, Gottschalk, had a solid year. Gottschalk blocked very well and was a very nice surprise at left tackle in his first season as a starter.

Grade: B

2013 Outlook: Now a senior, Gottschalk will be expected to take on more of a leadership role along the offensive line and help the new starter next to him at guard get comfortable so the line can gel early. With the tough non-conference schedule, chemistry along the offensive line will be key and it is a big responsibility for Gottschalk to make sure that trust happens.

Gottschalk must be at his best right away when the Mustangs face Texas Tech since defensive end Dartwan Bush, who totaled 5.5 sacks last year, is one of the better pass rushers in the Big 12. Gottschalk is athletic enough to contain Bush, and it will be vital for the Mustangs to be able to pass to set up the run against Texas Tech, but if Bush has a monster game, it will be tough for the Mustangs to get things going.

When the Mustangs played Texas A&M last season, Damontre Moore had two sacks and was able to get constant pressure on Gilbert. This year, the Aggies replace Moore with Tyrell Taylor, another speedster, who totaled six sacks last year. If the Mustangs have any chance at all to upset the Aggies, pass protection will have to be improved.

Gottschalk will then be matched up against TCU's Davonte Fields, who is just scary and has been compared to Von Miller. A good day for Gottschalk would be to limit Fields to a sack, but TCU's defensive line is one of the best around and so it will have to be a group effort against the Horned Frogs to be successful.

Going into American Athletic Conference play, Rutgers returns senior Jamil Merrell, who had 5.5 sacks last season, but is outweighed by Gottschalk by 40 pounds and there are questions about how effective he will be as he slides to defensive end from tackle this season. Memphis also has a solid defensive end, who broke out last year in Martin Ifedi, who posted 7.5 sacks.

After that, Temple, Cincinnati and Connecticut don't have extremely high threats, but at that point in the season, someone could develop into a concern for Gottschalk to watch out for. The real challenge lies in Tampa against South Florida.

Aaron Lynch, the Notre Dame transfer and blue-chip recruit, who sat out last season, has long arms, explosiveness and a high motor that just will not stop. Lynch is expected to be a terror for the Bulls, since he racked up 5.5 sacks as a freshman in South Bend before transferring to USF.

Houston has two unproven defensive ends that each weigh around 220 pounds so the hope is that there won't be too much trouble for him there. In the regular season finale, Gottschalk does face UCF pass rusher Thomas Niles, who has a nice combination of size and speed, but shouldn't be too much of a problem for Gottschalk.

Gottschalk's ability to control his opponent week in and week out will tell us a lot about how this offense is going to perform this season. If Gottschalk can't contain these pass rushers, a lot of what June Jones' offense is predicated on will not be able to happen and Gilbert could have a tough senior year as well. Don't worry too much about Gottschalk's run blocking, he's athletic enough and now strong enough to not be a road grader, but definitely open holes up for Traylon Shead.

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