After all of the talk about the talented playmakers on the offensive side of the ball, today we cover a very touchy subject – the offensive line.
It’s the load-bearing wall, the engine that keeps the train rolling, and the key to the success of the offense this 2016 season.
This has been one of the hardest positions to maintain over the Paul Rhoads regime, and it shows in year one of the Campbell era. The greatest teams in school history won from the inside-out, and if ISU is going to take that next step, they are going to have to do it one way – development.
Campbell and his right-hand-man, Tom Manning, love the trenches. They both played on the line in college and love to teach it, but the talent they have is a work in progress and they will earn their paychecks right away.
The offensive line is led by junior Jake Campos and his hulking 6-foot-9 frame. Campos came to Ames with high hopes, but has yet to fully live up to expectations. He is slated to play at right tackle, and his bookend brother will be none other than Jaypee Philbert. To be honest, I was expecting the complete opposite, with Campos on the QB’s blind side, but this staff feels that Philbert can handle his own in that pass blocking capacity.
We will see a heavy dose of run blocking this season. With the lack of depth on both sides, I see Campbell slowing things down and working to keep the opposition’s offense off the field. We have some up-and-coming road graders at guard in Nick Fett and Patrick Scoggins.
At center (at the moment) is Julian Good-Jones, but my hunch is Ohio State/Minnesota transfer Brian Bobek will supplant him in that role midway through the season, or even sooner.
Other than Campos, there is a grand total of ONE start among the remaining projected starters. That one start belongs to Nick Fett, who from all media accounts, has had an outstanding offseason. Fett, Campos and Philbert are shoe-ins for their spots, but after that, your guess is as good as mine.
The fear among most fans (and it should be) are the backups behind them. There’s a lot of new names, and absolutely no experience on a Big 12 football field. To say we can’t afford injuries on the O-Line is a complete understatement.
I could see Karson Green getting some snaps, and possibly moving into a starting role at guard at some point during the season. His JUCO counterpart by the name of Oge Udeogu just got to campus, and it will take some time for him to knock off the rust. At 325 pounds, I see him fulfilling the role of the departed Wendell Taiese down the road.
As for the incoming freshmen, look for all of them to wear a redshirt, including 4-star recruit Sean Foster. It makes no sense to put them on the field at this point. They need to add weight and get accustomed to the rigors of college football before they set foot on the field.
Stacking Up Against the Big 12
Let me just give it to you straight – it isn’t pretty.
There are quite a few linemen returning to their respective teams this year, most notably in Austin. The Longhorns have two players picked for First Team All-Conference preseason in Patrick Vahe and Connor Williams.
Baylor will still be strong, and so will Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. K-State is one of the best at teaching the fundamentals and may not look the best on paper, but they always exceed expectations. Texas Tech lost stud Le’Raven Clark, but will be just fine if their QB Patrick Mahomes continues to throw the ball in under two seconds.
I would bet that Oklahoma and Oklahoma State will be the front-runners in offensive line performance this year, and ISU will most likely round out the back end.
The fact that Tom Manning is the offensive line coach is a saving grace. Last year, Manning was named Offensive Line Coach of the Year by Footballscoop, where he had to replace FIVE starters from the previous year. However, that new crew was full of upperclassmen who had been in the program for multiple years, but the statistics are astounding.
Manning’s hog mollies paved the way for more than 200 yards a game on the ground and allowed a paltry FOUR sacks all season. That was good for second best in the nation, and if he can come in and do that in year one, that would be cause for complete amazement.
This unit needs to work as one, and it all starts up front with the signal calls from the center. Brian Bobek is a seasoned vet who I see starting, and he has two capable tackles who have massive potential. If Manning can control the clock and our defense can hold up, I foresee this line progressing nicely in the run game. It’s pass-blocking that I’m worried about.
Look for the line to be a work in progress throughout the season.