Thursday, August 6, 2009

Taking Inventory: The Offensive Line

To most fans, the offensive line is easily the least-understood part of the game. When you were a kid, offensive linemen’s trading cards had no stats on the back. Aside from the center, O-linemen don’t touch the ball. Most of the time, to the untrained eye, it looks like all they do is just stand up and hug the defender. They’re all big, slow (when compared to the backs & receivers) and wear the least-desirable jersey numbers. Despite all of this, they just might be the most important positions on the team. In a ball-control scheme like TCU employs, dominating the line of scrimmage is priority #1, and the big uglies in purple did just that last year to the tune of 220 rushing yards per game, an average time of possession of over 35 minutes a game and just 18 sacks allowed all season.

Both starting tackles from 2008 return this year. Senior Marshall Newhouse (6-4, 320) is a third year starter who was 2nd Team All-MWC last year. He played extensively as a true freshman in 2006- the only Frog offensive lineman I can remember doing so in a long time. That's a fitting resume for a left tackle, I’d say. On the right side will again be the largest human being ever to come out of Odessa- Marcus Cannon (6-5, 350), a junior who earned Honorable Mention All-MWC honors last year. The main backup for both tackles will likely be senior Nick Richmond (6-8, 322), who is listed as the #2 left tackle but was the full-time starting right tackle in 2007 and started two games on the right side last fall. The other two tackles that will compete for playing time are sophomore Jeff Olson (6-4, 282), who played in two games last year and redshirt freshman Trevius Jones (6-3, 310), who was a highly-touted recruit coming out of Tyler Lee two years ago.

There is not as much experience at guard, but sophomore Kyle Dooley (6-3, 315) did start four games before suffering a season-ending knee injury against UNLV. The former walk-on should be good to go as the starter on the left side this year. At the end of spring practice, Josh Vernon (6-2, 295), a junior who played in 12 games backing up Giles Montgomery a year ago, claimed the top spot at right guard. He’ll be pushed by fellow junior Zach Roth (6-5, 310), who redshirted last year after transferring from Garden City CC in Kansas, where he earned All-Conference honors. Blaize Foltz (6-4, 310), a redshirt freshman from Kansas, had an impressive spring and could also fight his way into the rotation.

The biggest shoes to fill along the O-line are definitely at center, where three-time All-MWC center Blake Schlueter has departed to the NFL. Junior Jake Kirkpatrick (6-3, 305) played in 12 games a year ago and served as Schlueter’s main back-up. He had a fantastic spring, according to the coaching staff, to claim the starting role. Battling for the back-up spot will be redshirt freshman James Fry (6-4, 285) and sophomore Spencer Thompson (6-4, 305). Thompson enrolled in the spring of 2007 after graduating from Sweetwater High a semester early and played in 4 games last year. He could also see some time at guard. Fifth-year senior Tyler Marrou (6-5, 268), who has played in 9 games in his time at TCU, rounds out the depth chart at center.

Four incoming freshman join the Frogs this year- Ty Horn (6-5, 295) from Waco Midway, John Woolridge (6-5, 285) from Episcopal in Houston, Eric Tausch (6-3, 285) from Dallas Jesuit and D.J. Yendrey (6-3, 240) from Edna. Yendrey was listed as a defensive lineman throughout the recruiting process, but is listed as an offensive lineman on the TCU roster. I would be very surprised if any of these guys didn’t redshirt this year. The Frogs also have two high school senior offensive linemen already committed to play at TCU- Cameron Fleming (6-6, 270) of Cy-Creek in the Houston area and Michael Thompson (6-4, 315) of Farmersville. I would expect one or two more O-linemen to join this class.

Up Next: The Defensive Line

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