Position Preview: Offensive Line
(Photo by Larry Sellers)The #605 Hogs are back and ready for business. Coach Jason Eck returns for his third season with the Jacks. The oline has made big strides both seasons and the hope is that they improve again in year three. Last year they only allowed 23 sacks on the season and paved the way for 176.6 rushing yards per game. There were moments last season where they were down right dominant and moments where they struggled to adjust what the opponents were doing. If they can take the next step and increase their consistency to go along with the physicality then they could be the best line in the MVFC. As always, young players will need to continue to develop but this is the deepest offensive line unit the Jackrabbits have fielded in a number of years.
#77 Wes Genant (6-4, 305) returns for his third season. During his true freshmen year he was the right tackle and last year he started all 14 games at right guard. However, Genant worked at center in spring ball so he may be the one that is tasked with replacing four year starter Jacob Ohnesorge. Eck believes that Genant can be an All-Conference type of player. He has shown his smarts and Eck stated that he has had an outstanding summer.
#51 Tiano Pupungato (6-5, 310) battled through injuries in 2017. Now entering his third year as a starter at left guard Tiano brings toughness and a physical presence. Eck said that an underrated part of Tiano's game is his athleticism for a man his size. He will be counted on to provide a steadying senior presence to the group given his vast experience in big games the past two years.
#70 Tyler Weir (6-4, 305) is also a senior and has the ability to play both guard and tackle. In 2017 he started at right tackle in 12 games and is slated to start the season there on September 1st. Weir had a gritty performance in 2017 after he injured his leg early in the season but battled through it. Weir brought a steady hand to the right tackle position last season and will be looked to continue that solid level of play.
#78 Evan Greeneway (6-7, 295) was maybe the surprise of 2017. He showed up to fall camp ready to compete and saw extensive action throughout the season at left tackle. He played in all 14 games and earned 4 starts including 2 in the playoffs. Now a junior, Greeneway is projected to be the starter from game one. Greeneway made a huge jump from his sophomore to his junior season and if he can do that again he could be an All-Conference type of player. Eck shared that Greeneway is hardworking, smart, competitive, and takes a lot of pride in his work.
After these four, there is a fierce competition for the right guard spot. The next four players are all working to be that fifth starter and earn a travel roster spot.
#79 Grant Schmidt (6-6, 320) is a SF Roosevelt graduate via Ohio State and Cincinnati. Schmidt had previously worked as a tackle but settled inside at guard during spring ball. Eck said that Schmidt is very strong but will take some time to get into the swing of things after not playing a live game rep in three years.
#54 Eddie Miller (6-5, 310) earned snaps in 13 games at guard as a true freshmen including meaningful snaps last year in the playoff games. Eck is expecting Miller to take a big step forward this season. By multiple accounts, he has had a really good off season. He may take some reps at center just so he can fill in during a pinch if needed.
#56 Eagan Lickiss (6-4, 310) also competed in 14 games as a true freshmen at tackle as well as special teams. Eagan is very intelligent and can play tackle or guard but guard may be his more natural position. Eagan has also had a very strong summer off season that built on the playing time he received during the playoff run.
#60 Mason McCormick (6-4, 300) is a true freshmen from Sioux Falls Roosevelt. Mason was up in Brookings working out the Monday after his graduation and has spent the entire summer in Brookings learning, asking questions, and working out. Coach Eck has shown that he is not afraid of playing freshmen if they are reliable (See Genant, Miller, and Lickiss as examples). McCormick has had a strong summer in the weight room and we will find out soon enough if that will translate to the field.
#74 Logan Busch (6-4, 315) is a junior college transfer from Iowa Western Community College. Logan has really worked hard this summer to put himself in position to play this season. He is certainly in the mix because of this hardwork. The Beresford High School grad has two years of eligibility remaining.
The next three names are another group of interior linemen who will provide depth. This group can play either guard or center but has some work to do to make the top ten for the travel roster.
#63 Jack Domandle (6-4, 310) saw action in five games last season and could be in the running to earn more playing time at both the center and right guard positions. Jack has improved his snapping and will need to keep improving to be the primary backup center.
#59 Austin Boen (6-3, 295) is a mauler but has had to overcome multiple knee injuries. If he is healthy, he will compete at center. However, he will miss the first few weeks of the season due to a knee injury that he suffered in spring ball. Last season he returned from injury and earned scout player of the week before the Southern Illinois game last season. If Boen can get healthy he will provide excellent depth and competition along the line.
#50 Austin Barrett (6-2, 285) is making the transition to offensive line from the defensive tackle position for his sophomore season. Eck is excited about Barrett's potential because of his athleticism. He thinks he can follow the example of Tiano and make a successful transition from defensive tackle to guard but it will take hard work and practice.
The next three names are in the running for playing time at tackle. Depth at the tackle position looks a little different. But the potential for greatness is here in this group.
#75 Jon Gruetzmacher (6-8, 320) is maybe one of the biggest human beings I have ever seen in person. He will have the chance to earn playing time at one of the tackles spots in 2018. Gruetzmacher was recognized as offensive scout player of the week once last season. Eck said that Jon had a good summer and possess so much ability. If he has a good camp, he could work into the rotation at the tackle position.
#71 Aron Johnson (6-6, 265) is a player that Coach Eck has been impressed with since he arrived on campus. Eck is always quick to mention Johnson's name when talking about players who are standing out in the position group. Johnson has put on over 40 pounds since getting to campus. He is very athletic and moves well.
#72 Jason Titus (6-5, 300) threw shotput during the track season for SDSU this past spring. According to Eck, Titus is working hard and improving every day. He will add good depth to the position this season.
The incoming freshmen certainly don't lack any size. #62 Garret Greenfield (6-6, 265) from Rock Valley, IA, #61 Max Howard (6-7, 320) from Brandon, SD, #68 Ian Bass (6-4, 275) from Rosemount, MN, and #67 Zach Collins (6-3, 295) Fridley, MN are the crop of newcomers. This group will likely red shirt, get stronger, and learn the system this season. This group will need to be ready to go at a moments notice. The new rule allowing freshmen to play in four games could certainly factor in for this group.
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