Fowler Gets the Call

Once they battled for the same job, now they will work side-by-side. With the loss of Ross Verba to injury, Barry Stokes will slide over to left tackle and Melvin Fowler will assume the starting job at the left guard position beside him. Mike McLain brings us the story from today's press conference.

BEREA – Barry Stokes will be the man at offensive left tackle in place of the injured Ross Verba.

With Stokes moving over from left guard, Melvin Fowler will get the call at guard.

"He (Stokes) was the candidate to play tackle for all 16 games last year if Ryan Tucker or Ross Verba had been injured," Davis said. "We feel good about it. I think that Barry is going to play well."

Fowler started the Tennessee game at left guard ahead of Stokes. Stokes eventually won the competition, and Fowler was moved to second string center.

"Experience is the one deal that some guys have," Davis said. "This is going to be Barry Stokes' eighth year. There are some things that some guys have that you can't give the other guys. Now Melvin is going to get it.

"He's going to get a major dose of experience. It will probably accelerate his growth and performance because of baptism under fire. He's going to be in a fistfight every week. He'll get a heck of a lot better from week one to week two to week three. Right now we feel comfortable with what's going on."

Davis isn't painting a dire picture in light of Verba's season-ending injury.

"One of the true marks of championship teams is how well they deal with adversity," Davis said. "I thought we dealt with adversity magnificently last year. Whether it was Jamir (Miller's) injury or the Dwayne Rudd helmet throw.

"We never panicked. We never lost our composure. Guys continued to fight and win, and things started to turn around and we won seven of the last 10. Every team in this league is going to have adversity. There are going to be injuries and bad officiating. You just have to learn to deal with it."

The moves mean that a rookie will start at center next to a second-year left guard who has one career start.

"We're going to have to overcome that (inexperience)," Davis said. "If there's going to be a silver lining to it is that the three guys in the interior are ex centers. They've all been trained to think like clones. There will be a little bit of added help in that respect."

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