Trench Warfare

Offensive and defensive linemen prepare for war as the season approaches

by Published: Aug 26, 2013

Offense vs. Defense: Members of the offensive and defensive line practice different plays weeks before the start of the season. The Ferris State Bulldogs went 7-4 in last year’s football season. Photo By: Tori Thomas | Photographer

Offense vs. Defense: Members of the offen­sive and defen­sive line prac­tice dif­fer­ent plays weeks before the start of the sea­son. The Ferris State Bulldogs went 7–4 in last year’s foot­ball sea­son. Photo By: Tori Thomas | Photographer

Often over­looked, offen­sive and defen­sive line­men bat­tle in the trenches as they play an inte­gral role in dri­ving the machine that is a foot­ball team.

With the 2013 foot­ball sea­son around the cor­ner, many fans are look­ing for­ward to Ferris’ high-octane offense and fiercely aggres­sive defense. Most fans, though, don’t get par­tic­u­larly excited about line play. Yet in real­ity, the line­men are often noted as the build­ing blocks to a suc­cess­ful team.

Casual foot­ball fans sel­domly brag about how good their defen­sive line con­tained the oppos­ing run­ning backs, or how their left tackle has improved his kick-slide over the off season.

Linemen don’t make head­lines for the spec­tac­u­lar catches or the 80-yard touch­down runs that cap­ti­vate onlook­ers, but most coaches will tell you every­thing starts on the line.

It takes a spe­cial kind of ath­lete to play with his hand in the dirt. Linemen must have the rare com­bi­na­tion of strength, quick­ness, smarts and, of course, size. Ferris’ offense alone boasts a line-up of siz­able fig­ures, with the aver­age size of a Bulldog offen­sive line­man being 6 feet 3 inches and 290 pounds.

In the game of foot­ball, a big body is use­less unless you know how to use it.

“It takes a tough guy with a good head on his shoul­ders to play in the trenches,” Ferris sopho­more offen­sive tackle Adam Bennett said.

Bennett will help anchor an offen­sive line head­ing into a sea­son that will test every aspect of the group’s ability.

The first game of the sea­son is sched­uled against defend­ing Division I FCS cham­pi­ons North Dakota State University, and arguable that this sea­son will test the Bulldogs. What Bennett knows, though, is the line is ready for action.

“We have improved on both our speed and tech­nique over the sum­mer,” Bennett said. “I think the offen­sive line is really excited for the upcom­ing year.”

On the defen­sive side of the ball, the line switches mind­set com­pletely. Instead of block­ing for run­ners and pro­tect­ing the quar­ter­back, defen­sive line­men want the com­plete opposite.

Linemen on the defen­sive side strive to sack the quar­ter­back and tackle oppos­ing run­ners in the back­field. For these men on the other side of the trench, it’s all about beat­ing their offen­sive counterpart.

“A great line­man is a study of the game, one who works on their craft each and every day so they can be the best at what they do,” Ferris junior defen­sive line­man Melvin Crews said.

Last year, the Bulldog defense totaled 23 sacks and 81 tack­les for a loss as they were led by the now grad­u­ated pass-rushing duo of Jordan Morgan and Brad Iskow. The tan­dem com­bined for a stag­ger­ing 39.5 tack­les in the backfield.

This sea­son will see some new faces along the defen­sive line, one being junior JUCO All-American defen­sive end Carlton Johnson.

Johnson came to Ferris with second-year head coach Tony Annese, who coached him at Grand Rapids Community College. After being held out of his first sea­son as a Bulldog due to the NCAA trans­fer rule, Johnson is ready to line up and wreak havoc in crim­son and gold.

“I feel the off­sea­son went great as far as get­ting into peak shape, and the team should be able to gel head­ing into the sea­son,” Johnson said. “I feel excited about the posi­tion I’m in and I can’t wait for the first game.”