Saluki offensive line sets strong foundation

By Tony McDaniel

The old adage ‘football games are won and lost in the trenches’ rings true for SIU.

Saluki football has had a nice offensive season. Senior running back Malcolm Agnew is No. 11 in rushing touchdowns in the Football Championship Subdivision, and junior quarterback Mark Iannotti is No. 14 in passing yards.

Without SIU’s offensive line, neither of those players would be able to post those types of numbers.

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SIU is ranked No. 10 in the FCS in sacks allowed, thanks to the offensive line.

Senior center Tanner Crum said blocking has been a bright spot for the offense.

“Giving up the least amount of sacks [in the MVC] last year was definitely a big accomplishment for us and we’re looking to do that this year,” he said.

The center is usually a team’s leader on the offensive line. Crum said he sees himself as the offensive line’s leader, and the SIU defensive players come to him to point out adjustments the line should make.

“Considering I’m not one of the top five captains, I take it as a compliment that they come to me first whenever anything is going on with the o-line.”

Crum said the unit off the field spends most of its time together and the players are very close.

“There’s a lot of unity,” Crum said. “It’s kind of weird. We all kind of know what’s going on in each other’s heads before anything is said.”

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The offensive line has dealt with some adversity this year to test its unity however.

Wirth missed four games this year with a right ankle injury. Evans missed the last game against Youngstown State because of injury as well.

Wirth said while missing time was frustrating, he was happy to see his team succeed without him.

Offensive coordinator Bill O’Boyle said several players stepped up to fill the void left by the injured linemen. Boemer was one of the players O’Boyle called on when Wirth was injured.

“Cory Boemer stepped in and did an unbelievable job for us,” O’Boyle said. “Without him we would not be where we’re at … I joke with him but he’s played every position but center. He could go from right, to left, to wherever. So it speaks volumes for that kid.”

Evans said the whole offensive line stepped up to pick up the slack.

“Everybody knew what we had to do, we knew who we had to back up and we knew we’ve got to protect our quarterback,” he said. “If someone gets banged up, we’ve got somebody else ready to go.”

Evans plays left tackle, one of the more important positions on the offensive line. The left tackle is responsible for protecting the quarterback’s blind side from the pass rush.

“I just look at it as, do what I’ve got to do to not give up any sacks and just play my hardest,” Evans said. “I’m pivotal on the o-line. I can’t give up a sack, I cant.”

Evans said O’Boyle had him watch film on left tackles and guards to learn how to properly execute his footwork.

Evans played in three games as a freshman at right guard. He said he welcomed the extra experience last season.

O’Boyle said the main thing the offensive line needs to improve on is technique.

“I’m disappointed in our footwork,” O’Boyle said. “I think you can be big and strong and all that other stuff, but if your feet aren’t in the right place for that position then you’re in trouble … We work on it everyday, we’ve just gotta do it more.”

Tony McDaniel can be reached at [email protected]@tonymcdanielDE or at 536-3311 ext. 256

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