The offensive line on a football team is like having a good bass player in your band. They are crucial to performance but always seem to be overlooked.
Without a decent offensive line, your quarterback can get sacked and things can go from bad to worse, then to just straight up ugly.
Last season, the Bulls’ offensive only gave up 1.3 sacks per game, which was 30th in the NCAA.
This year, the USF Bulls look to continue their history of having a strong O-line, but they did lose some key players this season including left guard Jeremiah Warren and center Chaz Hine.
With the losses, the Bulls have added some crucial pieces to the puzzle including redshirt freshman Thor Jozwiak. Jozwiak is a quite sizable player at 6’4’’ 309 lbs, he will no doubt add strength to the Bulls’ line. He and redshirt sophomore Austin Reiter (6’3’’, 286 lbs) will replace Hine at the center position.
Reiter, who appeared in 10 games last year for the Bulls, was listed as the starting center on the initial fall depth chart although he hasn’t started at the position before. That will probably remain the same since he no doubt has more experience than Jozwiak. Jozwiak could see some game action this season though.
Keep a close eye on JUCO transfer Lawrence Martin. Martin (6’3’’, 313 lbs) can line up as either a tackle or a guard. His versatility could lead him to landing starting position this season. Martin, a junior, transferred to USF from Merced college where he redshirted in 2011. In 2010, Martin was a first-team Region II All-California selection.
Also listed as a starter on the initial depth chart is left tackle Darrell Williams, (6‘5’’, 292 lbs) who played in 10 games for the Bulls’ offensive line as well as special teams, although as a reserve player. He and redshirt senior Damien Edwards, (who played in five games on the O-line and special teams) are competing for that starting gig at left tackle.
Dont be surprised if Edwards lands that job, however, Williams brings a height advantage to the left tackle position at 6’5’’ and could also start. If Williams starts, it’s a little bit of a gamble having an inexperienced player at the position. Bulls offensive line coach Steve Shankweiler has high hopes in Williams though.
Last season, Mark Popek was the one who started at the left tackle position. However, Popek will be at the left guard position instead of left tackle, making USF’s O-line look quite different.
Popek, a fifth year senior (6’7’’, 299 lbs) started in all 12 games last season for the Bulls and will anchor the offensive line this season. That won’t be anything new to the left guard, who anchored last season’s offensive line that helped USF’s offense average over 432 yards of total offense, which was second in the Big East.
He was also another reason USF quarterbacks were second in the Big East in passing yards, averaging 249.6 yards. His height alone gives USF an advantage at the left guard position.
The other returning starters and possible leaders on the O-line include senior right guard Danous Estenor (6’3’’, 307 lbs) and right tackle Quinterrius Eatmon. Eatmon, (6’6’’, 301 lbs) a redshirt sophomore, started all 12 games at the position last season.
All three returning starters played in all of the Bulls’ games last season. That experience alone will allow the USF to continue their upward trend of success, allowing senior quarterback B.J. Daniels to possibly have a career season in his last year at USF.