As the season grows closer and all eyes are on the playmakers, there’s another group that seems to be overlooked. The offensive Line is going to prove to be the most important part to Kansas Football’s success in 2017.
Although it’s not a glamorous position, the big guys up front have arguably the most important job there is in football. Without them, there is no offense, no scoring, and thus, no winning. Sadly, we haven’t been given a solid front line to help in quite some time. Keep in mind, with the past coaching turnover we have endured and the loss of scholarships, it’s been difficult to bring in top talent.
Kansas football saw the departure of only one offensive lineman last season in De’Andre Banks. This season, we have returned almost all of the starters from last season who have become bigger, stronger, and more experienced. The addition of Charles Baldwin, the 305 pound Alabama transfer definitely can’t hurt anything. Last season we had more Freshman linemen than Junior and Senior linemen combined. Add the season of experience with possibly two more seasons behind them, this is a group with nowhere to go but up.
The biggest fault in the line last season was the run-blocking. I always try to be positive, but I can’t lie. It was atrocious. The pass-blocking however, was better (especially by the end of the season.) The extra emphasis on the air-raid this year will allow for the line’s skillset to be best utilized, as they will be pass-blocking for most of the game, allowing them some cushion when the occasional run comes out for Khalil Herbert or Taylor Martin.
Key players returning for the offensive line include:
Jayson Rhodes – Started at Left Guard in all 11 games he played,
Mesa Ribordy – former walk-on who has found himself a spot on the Rimington Award watchlist, started all 11 games he played in (didn’t record a bad snap in his 5 games at Center)
Larry Hughes – Played final 5 games of the season at Right Guard
Hakeem Adeniji – Started all 12 games as a Freshman and recorded 22 knock-down blocks on the season
All of these young, returning players make for a spike in productivity up front. More protection for the QB means more scoring, more competing, and more winning in a conference like the Big 12 that thrives on high powered offense. Aside from the Rhode Island game last season, Kansas football did not put up more than 24 points all season. This season, the all around improvement of the offense, which starts up front, means we will have much more overall success in 2017.