Soeren Wendland is one of four seniors who are slated to start on the Flames offensive line this year.
Throughout the month of August, LibertyFlames.com will be running previews of each position on the Flames' roster as part of its Countdown to Kickoff coverage, leading up to the home opener against St. Francis, Pa., on Sept. 4.
The web site's position previews continue today with a look at Liberty's offensive line, as we try to prepare you for Saturday's offensive Flames Football Preview Show. Last year, four out of Liberty's five starting offensive linemen garnered all-conference honors. This year's senior-laden position will be looking to do the same under the leadership of a pair of team captains.
Offensive Line The casual observer might point to the likes of heralded stars by the names of former quarterback Brock Smith, Walter Payton Award nominee and NFL Draft pick Rashad Jennings and standout wide receivers Dominic Bolden and Wynton Jackson, for the recent success of Liberty's high-powered offensive attack.
However, head coach Danny Rocco looks no further than the massive giants who have been battle in the trenches to create the holes the preceding players have greatly benefited from.
"Those who have listened to me for years know that I've talked about our program's success coming down to the play of our offensive line," stated Rocco. "Once again, I'm excited about our returning offensive linemen, especially with good senior leadership in Soeren Wendland and Alex Stadler."
The hard-working pair was duly honored this past spring, as along with quarterback Mike Brown, both were named offensive team captains.
The honor is quite impressive, considering neither player has ever crossed the goal line, helping Liberty score one of its 1,273 points during the last three years (average of 37.4 points per game).
Just like the tight end position, Liberty's offensive line has collected numerous all-conference accolades in recent years. During the last three years, 10 offensive linemen have been named to Big South all-conference teams, including four out of five starters in 2007 and 2009.
Wendland and Stadler were understudies of last year's first-team honorees Josh Weaver and Bryan Mosier, and will look to keep Liberty's stranglehold on the league's yearly offensive line awards.
Last year's offensive line paved the way for Liberty to finish the season ranked No. 3 nationally in total rushing touchdowns (31) and No. 21 in rushing offense (176.1 yards per game). The Flames also ranked No. 2 in red zone efficient offense, as Liberty scored on 92.2 of its trips into the opponent's red zone.
However, the most notable mark in which Liberty's "front five" played a large part was helping the Flames finish the year ranked No. 1 in the country in scoring offense, as Liberty scored an average of 36.36 points per contest.
Liberty does have some unknowns on its offensive line, as Stadler and Justin Vargas had to sit out the spring with injuries, giving players like Malcolm Boyd and Stan Herring the opportunity to garner additional reps with the first-team unit.
"We went through spring football without Stadler and Vargas, as they were unable to practice due to injuries," stated Rocco. "In the long run, it might help us be deeper and stronger, as this year's key reserves had a chance to gain valuable practice time."
Unlike the skill position players, Liberty's offensive line is littered with senior players. "I do like that we have four seniors who are slated to start on the offensive line this year," added Rocco.
Vargas and Wendland are slated to start at the left and right tackle positions, while Stadler will look to anchor the line at right guard. The final senior who comes into the year set to start is Matt Camire at center. The lone non-four year player on the squad's preseason starting list is Boyd at left guard.
Behind these five are a plethora of talented bodies ready to add depth to the position. Herring used his extra time wisely during the spring and was one of two players to garner the program's annual Samkon Gado award, given to the most improved player during spring practice.
"We are really excited about Stan Herring," commented Rocco about his sophomore who is currently behind Vargas on the depth chart at left tackle. "He is an offensive tackle that has progressed well."
Joining Herring as key reserves on the offensive line are Aaron Lundy, at center, Toney White and Jay Weatherington at the guard positions and Aaron Brown at tackle.
Outside of the experienced players, Rocco has added a crop of fresh bodies, who will be looking to pick up experience this year in hopes of shining for the Flames during the next two or three years.
"With the incoming freshmen, we have three guys who we really think are going to be good players for us," concluded Rocco. "Greg Ray is a physical player out of southwest Virginia, who can play both inside guard positions.
"Kevin Widener was a tight end out of high school, but we are going to move him to center and give him a chance to learn the position. Finally, Andre Mondor is a giant of a player out of Florida and could offer some relief to our players during his first year at Liberty."
Offensive Line at a Glance Front Runners LT - Justin Vargas (R-Sr., 6-5, 300) LG - Malcolm Boyd (So., 6-4, 280) C - Matt Camire (R-Sr., 6-3, 275) RG - Alex Stadler (R-Sr., 6-2, 315) RT - Soeren Wendland (R-Sr., 6-7, 290)
Contenders Aaron Brown (R-Jr., 6-4, 290) Stan Herring (R-So., 6-4, 275) Aaron Lundy (R-So., 6-5, 305) Jay Weatherington (So., 6-4, 295) Toney White (R-Jr., 6-4, 285)
Up-and-Comers Mitch Hanson (Fr., 6-5, 280) Andre Mondor (Fr., 6-4, 320) Greg Ray (Fr., 6-4, 300) Richard Smisson (Fr., 6-2, 240) Kevin Widener (Fr., 6-4, 270) Jeremiah Williams (R-So., 6-6, 285) Richard Wright (R-Fr., 6-1, 275)
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