O-line thrives despite injuries

By Terrance Peacock

An offensive line’s job is not to be in the spotlight.

A great offensive lineman steps his size 13 cleats into the trenches and has two jobs to do — keep his quarterback on his feet and open up running lanes for the backs. The quarterback and running backs receive all the statistics, fame, and awards, while the average fan rarely knows the lineman’s name.

While senior quarterback Kory Faulkner was having the best season of his career and the SIU football team produced a 100-yard rusher for the first time since 2011, it is the offensive line that is showing their dominance, despite a number of injuries.


Multiple starting offensive linemen have gone down throughout the season, leaving big shoes to fill for the reserves starting in their place. Senior lineman Nate Haremza suffered an injury in the week leading up to the September 7 matchup against Eastern Illinois University, leaving junior lineman Jamarcus Robinson to take over at right guard.

Robinson, a transfer from Holmes Community College in Mississippi, made his first start in a Saluki uniform against the Panthers and has not left the starting lineup since. Robinson said even when making the first Division I start of his career, nerves never played a role in his performance.

“I’ve played against a lot of top level capable guys in junior college,” Robinson said. “I was anxious, but I knew what to expect when I got on the field.”

Even though the starting lineup has been in flux for the majority of the season, Robinson said it did not take any time for the starting group to gel.

“As an offensive line, we are a brotherhood and all we have to do is stay strong,” Robinson said.

However, Robinson said it was an adjustment period running the Salukis’ style of offense.

“I’m not used to this style of offense because we didn’t run this style at my old school,” Robinson said. “For me, I’ve made the necessary adjustments and now my game is different, but the transition at first was kind of tough.”


It may have taken some time for the 6-foot-3, 323 pounder to adjust, but he now looks like a mainstay in the Saluki lineup and credits the offensive line’s success to offensive line coach Bill O’Boyle.

“You have to give Coach O’Boyle all the credit for getting all the guys together because when he first got here he always asked us what we want to be known for,” Robinson said. “We wanted to be known for running the ball because we are supposedly a running team, but now we are a balanced offense and is getting better in better on the offensive line so I give him all the credit.”

While Robinson credits O’Boyle to how well the line has played this season, O’Boyle said depth to the offensive line has played a major role in the line’s success.

“The thing with us, which we have been pretty fortunate, is we have about two to three kids that can play every position, center, guard or tackle,” O’Boyle said. “You’re seeing a lot of our guys that are probably better suited at a guard spot playing tackle or a tackle having to play guard so that’s what is kind of developing.”

Although the Salukis are fortunate to have linemen who can play multiple positions, O’Boyle said the task can be daunting.

“If it’s a right guard, he has to be comfortable in a left hand stance if he has to move over to left tackle or left guard,” O’Boyle said.

Competing week-to-week and linemen buying into the system is what O’Boyle said he appreciates most from his linemen, and senior lineman Jarien Moreland has bought into the system and has been a bright spot in the Saluki lineup.

Moreland spent the past three seasons with Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University and graduated with a degree in criminal justice. After missing the 2012 season with an injury, Moreland transferred to SIU with one more year of eligibility. Moreland missed training camp, causing him to miss an opportunity to start at the beginning of the season.

“I came in August, so I missed training camp and wasn’t in the starting lineup (against) Illinois or the second game,” Moreland said. “A couple of injuries happened here and there and I was able to obtain the playbook as well as I did so they were able to try me out and it turned out to be a good match for the team.”

Although the line has performed well this season, Moreland said the line would be called upon to perform even better now that redshirt freshman Ryan West, a quarterback with little experience, is under center.

“We have to protect him because … he is a freshman and he’s jumping right into the fire not being able to work with us as much as Kory (Faulkner) did,” Moreland said. “Now we are putting our arms around him saying, ‘we have your back and you don’t have to be too happy feet in the pocket.’”

Despite the line competing at such a high level, linemen such as Haremza and freshman Jake Notario are now healthy enough to step back on the field.

O’Boyle said a player will never lose a starting job because of an injury. However, if a player is outperforming someone else, that is a different story.

“It’s Coach (Dale) Lennon’s policy and it has always been my policy also, you never lose a starting position due to injury,” O’Boyle said. “There is that case that if a guy is clearly playing better than you when you were replaced, then they have a right to keep that position.”

Moreland said he agrees that a player should not lose his spot because of injury, but as long as he is in the mix, he will not make it easy.

“If it’s something that will help the team, I’ll go with it,” Moreland said. “If you fight hard enough for the position you can have it, but I’m a fighter. I respect every guy who came off of injury, I take nothing from them, but at the same time if it’s a position I have to fight for, I’ll fight for it.”