Throughout Liberty's preseason training camp, LibertyFlames.com will preview each position on the Flames' team, providing insight into the development of each group's players leading up to the Flames' season opener against Kent State on Aug. 29.
Today, we continue our position-by-position preview by looking at the Flames' offensive line position, including insight from assistant head coach/offensive line coach Dennis Wagner and seniors Malcolm Boyd and Hunter Steward.
The 2012 season was a year of transition for Liberty's "big men" up front on offense. The Flames' offensive line saw two seasoned veterans graduate and several others develop as the next generation of Liberty's top offensive linemen.
Jay Weatherington (left guard) and Aaron Lundy (center) finished their careers at Liberty with a combined 54 games played and 41 starts. Both players received postseason recognition for their career efforts, as Lundy was an All-Big South first team honoree, while Weatherington was an all-conference second-team selection.
Lundy and Weatherington were forced to step up quickly during the 2012 season, as fellow senior and returning All-American guard Malcolm Boyd suffered a season-ending injury two games into the year.
With the experience of a veteran like Boyd on the sideline, upcoming players like Mitch Hanson and Greg Ray were forced into more playing time than Turner Gill's coaching staff might have initially anticipated.
Additionally, Hunter Steward was forced to speed up his transition from defensive lineman to offensive lineman to help solidify Liberty's five-man front.
The challenges this group faced in 2012 should pay dividends in 2013, as Liberty returns a much more experienced offensive line for its second year under Gill.
Steward has emerged as an individual who could play beyond his time at Liberty, as he is one of the Flames' top professional prospects in 2013. Steward, a native of Canada, was already drafted in the offseason as the No. 6 overall pick by the BC Lions in the 2013 CFL Draft, and the Lions will have the rights to him should he decide to play in the CFL following his collegiate career.
Hanson started all 11 games at right tackle in 2013, while Ray started at right guard for four of the Flames' 11 contests.
Liberty's offensive line also received a boost during the offseason when the NCAA granted the Flames' medical hardship waiver request and Boyd was given one additional year to play.
Four of the five returning players are slated to start, with redshirt freshman Aharown Campbell emerging as the fifth starter following spring practice.
Ray will look to move to center and will be backed up by transfer offensive lineman Cody Gochenouer, while Boyd moves to right guard and Campbell takes over at left guard. Steward (LT) and Hanson (RT) will look to man the outside of the Flames' offensive front at the tackle positions.
Offensive Line Depth Chart
LT Hunter Steward (Sr., 6-7, 315) Cody Gochenouer (Jr., 6-4, 275) Max Sommer (R-So., 6-6, 290)
LG Malcolm Boyd (R-Sr., 6-3, 300) Jonathan Burgess (So., 6-2, 300) Kris Wilson (Fr., 6-4, 310)
C Greg Ray (Jr., 6-3, 310) Avery Eaton (Fr., 6-2, 275)
RG Aharown Campbell (R-Fr., 6-4, 320) Ethan Callison (R-Fr., 6-5, 315) Michael Henderman (Fr., 6-3, 310)
RT Mitch Hanson (Jr., 6-5, 300) Grant Jones (R-So., 6-5, 305) Dylan Brucki (Fr., 6-5, 295) Blanchard Sanwouo (Fr., 6-6, 260)
Full Training Camp Position Preview Schedule: Aug. 1 – Wide Receivers Aug. 5 – Defensive Line Aug. 7 – Quarterbacks Aug. 10 – Linebackers Aug. 12 – Tight Ends/Fullbacks Aug. 14 – Cornerbacks Aug. 19 – Safeties Aug. 21 – Offensive Line Aug. 23 – Special Teams Aug. 25 – Running Backs
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