Leading up to the Flames' season-opening football battle against N.C. State on Sept. 3, LibertyFlames.com will be previewing each position around the gridiron.
Today, we continue our position-by-position previews by taking a look at the Flames' offensive line. During today's video package, Flames Sports Network correspondent Alan York had a chance to speak with offensive line coach Blaine McCorkle, who has the responsibility of coaching what many consider the "heart of the program."
Unlike the previously previewed five skilled offensive positions where depth abounds, head coach Danny Rocco used the spring season to evaluate multiple options on the offensive line to try to find his starting give for the upcoming 2011 season.
"Watching the development of our players on the offensive line was one of our greatest areas of emphasis during the spring," commented Rocco. "We only have one senior returning on the offensive line in Toney White, plus Mark Tomlin, who transferred from VMI."
The 2010 season saw the graduation of four starters on the offensive line – Justin Vargas (LT), Matt Camire (C), Alex Stadler (RG) and Soeren Wendland (RT). Three of the four received accolades for their efforts from the Big South, as Stadler and Vargas were first-team all-conference honorees with Wendland getting a second-team nod.
"I'm really excited about our rising junior class and our redshirt freshman class on the offensive line," continued Rocco. "This rising junior class has four really good players in Aaron Lundy, Malcolm Boyd, Jay Weatherington and Stan Herring."
The coaching staff has made the decision to move Weatherington to center, after spending most of the 2010 season behind Stadler at right guard. Weatherington was one of two players to garner the program's Samkon Gado award, given annually to the most improved player during the team's annual spring workouts. Additionally, Rocco has shifted Lundy to right guard, after he spent most of last year backing up Camire at center.
"Right now I feel pretty good that four of our five spots on the offensive line are pretty much solidified on the offensive line," added Rocco coming into August training camp. "Stan Herring is slated to start at one tackle, Lundy and Boyd at the guard positions and Weatherington at center."
The largest battle most watched during August training camp was at right tackle, where White and Tomlin vied for the final starting role. At the close of camp, White had edged out Tomlin, but Rocco assures that Tomlin will play a vital role on the line, almost as a sixth starter.
Several players also looked to impress the coaching staff this training camp and push for playing time, starting with D.J. Sellman and Aaron Brown.
"D.J. is a player that was part of our program two years ago, but had to leave school for some personal reasons," stated Rocco. "He will certainly add some depth and competition at tackle. Plus, we will be looking at Aaron Brown at a guard or tackle position."
The next group that excites Rocco when it comes to the offensive line is four freshmen that were redshirted for the 2010 season – Mitch Hanson, Andre Mondor, Greg Ray and Kevin Widener.
"Andre Mondor is a giant. He is just a big man and like any young player, needs to work on his strength and conditioning," commented Rocco. "But he certainly has the size and athleticism to be a very good lineman for our program."
Mondor is slated to back up Lundy currently at right guard, while Ray, another "big body," will follow behind Boyd at left guard. Widener, who was a tight end in high school, has been moved to center and has started to add the necessary weight and strength to play center. Finally, Hanson gives the Flames four solid newcomers and will battle for time at left tackle.
A pair of true freshmen in Trevor Jenkins and Grant Jones showed great promise during August and both find themselves on the depth chart, although be it three deep, heading into the Flames season-opener against N.C. State.
Offensive Line at a Glance Front Runners Stan Herring (LT) (R-Jr., 6-4, 275) Malcolm Boyd (LG) (Jr., 6-4, 280) Jay Weatherington (C) (Jr., 6-4, 285) Aaron Lundy (RG) (R-Jr., 6-5, 305) Toney White (RT) (R-Sr., 6-5, 285)
Contenders Aaron Brown (R-Sr., 6-4, 290) Mitch Hanson (R-Fr., 6-5, 280) Greg Mondor (R-Fr., 6-4, 330) Greg Ray (R-Fr., 6-4, 325) D.J. Sellman (R-Jr., 6-6, 320) Mark Tomlin (R-Sr., 6-4, 280) Kevin Widener (R-Fr., 6-4, 275)
Up-and-Comers Trevor Jenkins (Fr., 6-5, 300) Grant Jones (Fr., 6-5, 305)
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