Trench warfare

Offensive and defensive linemen prepare for war as the season approaches

Offense vs. Defense: Members of the offensive and defensive line practice different plays weeks before the start of the season. The Ferris State Bulldogs went 7-4 in last year’s football season. Photo By: Tori Thomas | Photographer

Offense vs. Defense: Members of the offensive and defensive line practice different plays weeks before the start of the season. The Ferris State Bulldogs went 7-4 in last year’s football season. Photo By: Tori Thomas | Photographer

Often overlooked, offensive and defensive linemen battle in the trenches as they play an integral role in driving the machine that is a football team.

With the 2013 football season around the corner, many fans are looking forward to Ferris’ high-octane offense and fiercely aggressive defense. Most fans, though, don’t get particularly excited about line play. Yet in reality, the linemen are often noted as the building blocks to a successful team.

Casual football fans seldomly brag about how good their defensive line contained the opposing running backs, or how their left tackle has improved his kick-slide over the off season.

Linemen don’t make headlines for the spectacular catches or the 80-yard touchdown runs that captivate onlookers, but most coaches will tell you everything starts on the line.

It takes a special kind of athlete to play with his hand in the dirt. Linemen must have the rare combination of strength, quickness, smarts and, of course, size. Ferris’ offense alone boasts a line-up of sizable figures, with the average size of a Bulldog offensive lineman being 6 feet 3 inches and 290 pounds.

In the game of football, a big body is useless unless you know how to use it.

“It takes a tough guy with a good head on his shoulders to play in the trenches,” Ferris sophomore offensive tackle Adam Bennett said.

Bennett will help anchor an offensive line heading into a season that will test every aspect of the group’s ability.

The first game of the season is scheduled against defending Division I FCS champions North Dakota State University, and arguable that this season will test the Bulldogs. What Bennett knows, though, is the line is ready for action.

“We have improved on both our speed and technique over the summer,” Bennett said. “I think the offensive line is really excited for the upcoming year.”

On the defensive side of the ball, the line switches mindset completely. Instead of blocking for runners and protecting the quarterback, defensive linemen want the complete opposite.

Linemen on the defensive side strive to sack the quarterback and tackle opposing runners in the backfield. For these men on the other side of the trench, it’s all about beating their offensive counterpart.

“A great lineman is a study of the game, one who works on their craft each and every day so they can be the best at what they do,” Ferris junior defensive lineman Melvin Crews said.

Last year, the Bulldog defense totaled 23 sacks and 81 tackles for a loss as they were led by the now graduated pass-rushing duo of Jordan Morgan and Brad Iskow. The tandem combined for a staggering 39.5 tackles in the backfield.

This season will see some new faces along the defensive line, one being junior JUCO All-American defensive end Carlton Johnson.

Johnson came to Ferris with second-year head coach Tony Annese, who coached him at Grand Rapids Community College. After being held out of his first season as a Bulldog due to the NCAA transfer rule, Johnson is ready to line up and wreak havoc in crimson and gold.

“I feel the offseason went great as far as getting into peak shape, and the team should be able to gel heading into the season,” Johnson said. “I feel excited about the position I’m in and I can’t wait for the first game.”