It starts with the O-Line
Meet the Aggie football team starting lineup for 2009
As the fall practice session winds down, is there any hope for the Aggie offensive-line? You've heard it before. It's a well known cliche in football that in order for a football team to have success on the field and in the win column, you must have offensive-line experience. A brief look at the 2009 Aggie offensive-line indicates this year's team has three seniors slated to start joined by two juniors. Wrapping-up the offensive-line at the tight end position is another junior.
So what does "experience" mean in terms of success on the football field and how important of a role does it actually play? In 2008, eight of the top-10 teams in the final AP poll began the season with at least 65 combined career starts by their offensive linemen. Last year's "darling" and BCS-buster, Utah, had more than 80 starts of experience. This translates to success on the field. No offensive line coach in their right mind would tell you that experience and cohesiveness within the offensive line isn't important to them. Experience is the groundwork for an offensive line and their coaches.
Let's breakdown the Aggie offensive line, position by position:
Senior David Norman, 6'4", 300, played in all 12 games in 2008 for the Aggies on the offensive line and at tight end.
Senior Sioeli Fakalata, 6'3", 321, received a medical redshirt in 2008 after suffering a shoulder injury in 2007. As a sophomore, Fakalata played all 13 games at nose tackle. Coach Walker and offensive line coach Jason Lenzmeier made the decision to move Fakalata to the offensive line.
Sophomore Mike Grady, 6'3", 302, played in 12 games last season at both the center and tackle positions. Grady was moved to the center position after Richie Bolin suffered a knee injury. Grady redshirted his freshman year at NMSU.
Senior, Joseph Palmer, 6'3", 308, played in 11 games for the Aggies in 2008, starting the last four games at right guard. In 2007, Palmer played in 11 games for the Aggies as a back-up offensive lineman and 4 games as a freshman.
Junior Dwayne Barton, 6'4", 270, a JUCO, was a standout offensive lineman and tight end for City College of San Francisco from 2007 to 2008.
Junior Kyle Nelson, 6'4", 222, played in all 12 games for the Aggies in 2008 as the team's long snapper and tight end. In 2007, Nelson played in all 13 games for NM State as the team's back-up tight end and deep snapper.
Along with experience, an offensive line needs size and height. The Aggie starting offensive line will average roughly 6'3", 302 lbs. Good size for a college football offensive line. Athleticism and physicality is hard to gauge, and that will become more and more clear as the season wears on.
As for depth on the offensive line, the Aggies have three seniors on roster; Joe Suder, J.R. Saulietis, and Ryan Franzoy. Looking at the starting lineup backups, we expect to see Joe Suder at the right tackle position, Mike Yocius, a freshman, at right guard, J.R. Saulietis at center, Patrick Blount, a junior at left guard, Kyle Smith a redshirt junior at left tackle, and Kyle Hipp, a junior, at tight end.
Last year, the offensive line played a critical role in helping Chase Holbrook break team and WAC passing records. The transition from the "Air Raid" offense to a where NMSU is installing a new offensive system, one which features multiple offensive packages, a greater emphasis on the run and, at times, asks the quarterback to make plays out of the pocket.
The offensive line will have their work cut out for them in 2009. Pass protection is always key to a teams success, but in order for NMSU to be a more, well-rounded offense, the offensive line will have to learn to "run block". This team has the size, talent, and experience to make that happen.
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