Last year, the UMass Minutemen offensive line showed great improvement over the 2012 team. As a whole just 16 sacks in 12 games as opposed to 32 the previous year. This gave their quarterbacks much better protection and more time to get throws off. The line also helped improve the run game. The average run improved from 2.7 yards per carry in 2012 to 3.4 yards in 2013. This was partly thanks to the running backs improving, but the decrease in sacks is a true badge for the big men up front. Unfortunately, the Minutemen graduated three of their offensive line starters leaving them with just two: Matt Sparks and Tyrell Smith. Let’s take a look and see who else will be seeing time on the Minutemen offensive line this year.
Taking over a spot at guard for the Minutemen this year will likely be Elijah Wilkinson. The 330lb sophomore primarily played defense for the Minutemen last year but made a pair of appearances on offense last year. Now, he is an offensive lineman full time giving him a great chance to start. If the coaches did not think he would make an immediate impact on offense, they would have left him on defense giving him more time to develop in that aspect of the game.
Starting in three games for the team last year as a true freshman, Fabian Hoeller could nab the other starting guard job. The German lineman played all over the line last year at guard tackle and center but as a tackle in the jumbo set, guard seems like the place to put him in a spread offense. Hoeller is a better run blocker than he is a pass protector which gives coaches confidence running the ball through his gap.
Another sophomore who will definitely be a valuable contributor the team this year is Tyshon Henderson. The 6ft7 340lb lineman screams right tackle which seems like the right position for him to play. Henderson played in eight games for the Minutemen last year including one start putting him in a great position start once again this season.
Some men who are upper class-men and could see some significant playing time on the offensive line who have not already for the Minutemen this year include: Liam Porter, Ryan Johnson, and Joshua Bruns. All three of these men are junior college products including Bruns who was a redshirt for the team last year. Liam Porter used to play tight end for Boston College back in 2012, but an injury forced him to stray away from the position and move to tackle. Ryan Johnson was an all-conference right tackle last year at a community college in Iowa and stands tall at 6ft5 weighing in at 320lbs. All of these men could make immediate impacts on the team this year and provide great depth on the line.
Despite a lack of veteran presence on the offensive line, the offensive line is a position in which the Minutemen have confidence in. All around there is plenty of talent and men who have played in games for the team. This year the main difference for 3 out of 5 of the starters is that instead of going in late in the game, they will be playing most of the game week in and week out. They all played well last year so there is no reason why this year will be any different.