Spring Practice Report: Offensive Line
April 2, 2014
The Clint Conque era at Stephen F. Austin has officially begun as the Lumberjacks have commenced on their 2014 spring practice schedule. Each practice session, SFAJacks.com will highlight a different position as we round out our preview of the offensive side of the ball, featuring the offensive linemen and tight ends. The reports will conclude with coverage of the 2014 Spring Game, being held at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, April 12th at Homer Bryce Stadium.
NACOGDOCHES, Texas – When Clint Conque arrived as Stephen F. Austin’s new head coach in mid-December, each of the players knew they would be learning a new system once spring practices got underway.
The quarterbacks, wide receivers and running backs have all had to pore over playbooks, relearn terminologies and work through the new schemes on the field. But the success of the offense will rely heavily on how quickly the Lumberjack offensive line can make the transition as well.
“We’re installing a new offense, and its different than what they’ve been use to,” said offensive line coach Bill Best. “These kids were all brought here because they could pass protect very well, and they are good at that. Now installing the new aspects of the running game, it’s a lot more and a lot different than what they’re use to. It’s a work in progress and they are at the point we expected them to be in the process of learning a completely new offensive system.”
The SFA offensive line has largely been the unsung hero over the past few seasons as the ‘Jacks have rewritten both the program and Southland Conference record books. Providing the pass protection for Jeremy Moses and Brady Attaway and the run blocking for Gus Johnson, SFA has put up gaudy numbers with much of the spotlight shining away from the guys up front.
“It sounds cliché, but our stats are when our running back can break a big run and our quarterback can sit back there with the time he needs without taking the hits,” Best said. “When we can do that and see physicality on film, that’s where we get our reward.”
But if the SFA offense is going to put up big numbers once again in 2014, the ‘Jacks will be relying on a group of underclassmen, some of which have limited game experience. Five juniors have been leaned on heavily to step into that leadership role, led by Jeremy Neff, Nick Edwards, Terran Vaughn, Byron Williams and David Dane.
Sophomores Justin Reasons, Anthony Pullins and Travis Wiggins have stepped in to take meaningful reps, along side redshirt freshmen Shane Roberson and Andy McNew. But Best says what they lack in experience, they more than make up for in potential.
“We’re losing some guys with a lot of experience in (Ryne) Chambers and (Andrew) Ratliff, but what we have is still strong. Coach Truax really recruited that position well and left us some good guys in the cupboard. They are very athletic with good attitudes and very physical. They just need the chance to play, and play with each other, and we’ll be fine.”
The offensive line will also be bolstered by a new wrinkle in Conque’s offensive schemes as for the first time in a while, SFA will boast tight ends to bookend the line. Coach Jeremy Hammock was brought over from Central Arkansas to oversee both the ‘Jacks’ tight ends and fullbacks and has been pleased with the addition of the new schemes, giving some players added opportunities.
“A lot of these guys haven’t played tight end before, so it’s a work in progress,” Hammock said. “Some have played fullback, but all are relatively new to the position. They have done a great job of working hard to learn the position and have really embraced it. I’ve told them that as quickly as they get better, this team will get better, and I’ve been impressed with their hard work.”
Junior Danan Henderson is one of those making the transition over to tight end, being joined by redshirt freshman Ben Bibby. At the fullback position, Hammock has been working with junior Chase Curry and redshirt freshman Doug Sanchez as each of them will look to make their mark in the starting lineup come August.
“If we have some good ones, they’ll play a big role, “ Hammock said. “I’m pleased with the progress they are making, and excited about bringing in a pair of true tight ends with our signing class, so all of them will have an opportunity to play a big role in this offense.”
2014 SFA Spring Practice Schedule