Delance said he doesn’t take offense.
“The offensive linemen, we’re in the trenches,” he said.
“We’re under-the-radar kind of guys.”
The guys on the radar, of course, are quarterbacks. And
the proliferation of the spread offense in Texas has made the
Lone Star State a place of many stars at QB. Recent dual-
threat dynamos have included Allen’s Kyler Murray (Texas
A&M), Denton Guyer’s Jerrod Heard (Texas) and Wichita Falls
Rider’s J. T. Barrett (Ohio State). When the football season
began last fall, there were 18 former Texas high school
quarterbacks starting at the nation’s 128 FBS schools, and
even more impressively, a quarter of the NFL’s starting QBs
( 8 of 32) played high school ball in Texas.
Receivers have also thrived in the wide-open offenses,
and it showed in the recruiting Class of 2015, with guys such
as Cedar Hill’s DaMarkus Lodge (Mississippi), West Orange
Stark’s Deionte Thompson (Alabama) and Gilmer’s Blake
Lynch (Baylor). The offenses have also highlighted terrific
running backs such as Plano West’s Soso Jamabo (UCLA),
Rockwall’s Chris Warren ( Texas) and South Oak Cliff’s Jordan
Stevenson ( Wisconsin), who last season combined for 112
touchdowns and each averaged at least eight yards per carry.
Impressive. But none of it happens without the linemen.
Their skill is dependent on the will of the guys up front,
whether teams are whipping passes around or punishing
teams with the run. Consistency up front leads to consistency in the win column.
Katy, where the offensive line has opened holes for a succession of star running backs, is a great example. The 2012 state
champs featured Adam Taylor, who is now at Nebraska, and the
last two Katy state finalists had Rodney Anderson, who signed
with Oklahoma this year. Now Katy has senior Kyle Porter,
another top-notch recruit. But Katy’s running back tradition is
powered by a longer tradition of being tough up front.
“I tell the kids all the time that we’re not going to be a good
team if we’re not good up front,” Joseph said. “If we can’t get
the running backs to the second level, then it doesn’t matter
what they can do.”
The same could be said for Murray, the Gatorade National
Player of the Year. He excelled at turning broken plays into
touchdowns as Allen won three straight state titles. But the
way the Allen offensive line protected him, against some of
the fiercest defenses in the state, was pretty spectacular.
“I think coaches acknowledged it a lot when they talked
with us,” said Jeff Fleener, Allen’s offensive coordinator
the last nine seasons. Fleener, who this year became head
Little is the
state’s No. 1
Copperas Cove offensive lineman J.P. Urquidez ( 6-6, 295)
coach at San Antonio Brandeis, said his new staff – which
of course has been watching some Allen football footage –
mentions how good the Allen offensive line was last year.
“Coaches can recognize that,” Fleener said. “But to the
casual fan out at the game, the offensive linemen do get
Such is the life of the offensive lineman — at any level. In
the NFL, a kicker has been the Associated Press Player of
the Year (Mark Moseley in 1982), but an offensive lineman
has never been so honored. In college, the last time an offen-
sive lineman was even a finalist for the Heisman Trophy was
in 1996, when Ohio State offensive lineman Orlando Pace
finished fourth in the voting. In high school, the only offen-
sive lineman to win the Gatorade National Player of the Year
was Jeff Byers in 2004, and he was honored as a two-way
player. (He made 200 tackles as a defensive lineman).
Offensive linemen will always be overlooked and underap-preciated. They don’t score touchdowns or get to celebrate
after flashy interceptions or sacks. “You don’t notice them
until they mess up,” Joseph said.
They do get noticed in the NFL Draft, however. In 2014,
five offensive linemen were among the top 20 picks. A year
earlier, eight offensive linemen were among the top 20.
That’s 13 of the first 40 picks in the draft, including three
Texas high school players: Luke Joeckel (Arlington), Jake
Matthews (Fort Bend Elkins) and Lane Johnson, who played
quarterback at Groveton before becoming an offensive
lineman at Oklahoma.
All three were described as quick, agile and athletic, terms
often attached to the other, you know, “skill positions.”
Quick, agile and athletic can also describe the state’s
current crop of top high school offensive linemen that
includes Trophy Club Byron Nelson’s Kellen Diesch, Manvel’s
Austin Myers and Mineola’s twin brothers, Austin and Riley
“The agility and footwork and speed is just as important
for the linemen as it is for running backs and receivers,”
Agility, footwork, speed, toughness … it’s all needed. So is a
little “nastiness,” McGuire said, and fitness is more important
than ever because the game is played faster than ever.
“They can be snapping the ball every fifteen seconds,”
Gilbert said. “You’ve got to get those big guys down over the
ball to get it snapped.”
And without them, the offense doesn’t succeed in space
football. Or any kind of football, which Joseph pointed out as he
brought up the famous Four Horsemen of Notre Dame. The Four
Horsemen were a quarterback, a fullback and two halfbacks
who led Notre Dame to an undefeated season in 1924.
With the help of an offensive line, of course.
Matt Wixon (Twitter: @mattwixon) is the high school columnist
“There were the Four Horsemen,” Joseph said, “but they
needed the Seven Mules.”
for The Dallas Morning News.
21 FRIDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL TEXAS 2015 READ MORE AT THEOLDCOACH.COM