August 30, 2010

"Countdown To Kickoff": The Offensive Line

Editor's Note: This is the fourth installment of an eight-part series produced by the FSU Athletics Communications Office looking at different position groups as the Bulldogs prepare for their 2010 season opener on Friday, Sept. 3, at Hillsdale.

Big Rapids, Mich. - It has often been said that quality counts more than quantity.

While the Ferris State University football team only returns a pair of starters and a handful of veterans along its offensive line this fall, the Bulldogs believe those who return have the tools and ability to become a formidable unit.

"We lost a couple of guys to graduation, but we're excited about the guys coming back and what they can bring to the table," said FSU head coach Jeff Pierce.

FSU's offensive line strength should come on the inside where the Bulldogs welcome back two starters and a trio of experienced players in junior center Jake Hancock (Big Rapids) along with senior guards Scott Shattuck (Lowell/Ionia) and Joe Voiles (Flushing/Grand Blanc).

A team captain, Shattuck will be expected to lead a relatively young line in first-year offensive coordinator Chris Boden's system.

"Scott's a strong and intense player who works hard," Boden said.  "He's a leader for us and really offers a physical presence."

The 6-2, 283-pound Shattuck will shift to right guard this fall after seeing action on both the left side and at center earlier in his playing career.  He started seven games in 2009 and was a GLIAC All-Academic Team honoree for the second-straight year.  Previously, he started all 11 contests at center in 2008 and briefly spent time with the defensive line in the spring of '09 before moving back to the offensive side last fall.

Shattuck will be joined as a returning starter by Hancock, a local product who emerged a season ago and started all 11 games at the center spot.  He was tabbed as FSU's Most Outstanding Offensive Rookie in 2009 and is another veteran who should help lead the team.

"Jake is an all-league caliber player up front who has great feet and moves well," said Boden.

Boden and third-year offensive line coach Eric Ravellette also expect big things from Voiles, who will likely be pegged for the starting role at left guard. The three-year letterwinner appeared in all 11 games while making four starts last season. 

"Joe will be counted on to make a big impact this year," Boden said.  "He's a strong and physical player who can handle both the run and the pass."

With three veterans solidifying the interior positions up front, the Bulldogs will most likely count on a pair of sophomores to step into starting assignments at the tackle positions where FSU must replace two-year starters Matt Wellman and Brad Bammert.

The right tackle position should be filled by Trevor Smolinski (Battle Creek/Marshall), who played in four games as a reserve last fall and enters his third year in the program.  He figures to be joined on the opposite side at left tackle by Taylor Sprague (Saranac/Lowell), a talented prospect who started two contests and appeared in nine games last season.

Smolinski and Sprague both have tremendous height at 6-7 and 6-6, respectively, with both topping out around the 300-pound mark.  Sprague earned the team's Spring Offensive Most Improved Player honor for his efforts in spring ball.

Behind the five projected starters, the Bulldogs won't have a whole lot of experience back although talent can be found.

Sophomore Taylor Phillips (Orion/Lake Orion) could push for a starting role and significant time after being utilized in all 11 games last campaign as both a reserve lineman, H-Back and fullback in the old offensive system. He earned the team's Offensive Bulldog Award for his tenacity in spring drills and should help provide a solid blocking presence.

Two redshirt freshmen, Samuel Parker (Muskegon/Mona Shores) and Brad Boehmer (Olivet), could also be part of the mix following solid first years in the program and should help provide depth along the way.

The Bulldogs are also high on several incoming freshmen who could play this fall depending on injuries and performance.  They include three talented signees at over 300 pounds apiece in James Patrick (Harper Woods), Tyler Prybylla (Michigan City, Ind.) and Jacob Davis (Grant Township/Port Huron Northern) among others.

The offensive line should also be aided this season by the return of the tight end spot to the offensive system.

"Our offensive line as a whole had a good spring and we have high expectations for them," said Boden. 

"There's a good mix of veterans and youth who have some ability and Coach Ravellette does a great job with them so we're excited."

Next Installment:  The "Countdown To Kickoff" series will resume on Tuesday (Aug. 31) with a look at the defensive line.

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