In the game of football, quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, they all tend to hog the offensive glory. Those skill position players seem to always get their picture in the paper or get the interview on TV after the game.
The Frontier Conference is no different. The league has always been loaded with talented and explosive offensive players. But it can be said, with absolute certainty that the skill players would literally go nowhere without some major assistance from the big, nasty and tough guys in front of them.
Yes, like all other levels of football, to truly dominate the Frontier Conference, one must have an outstanding offensive line. It’s a trait the Carroll College Fighting Saints have lived by for years, and it’s one that continues in 2014.
While Carroll returns perhaps the best offensive line in the Frontier, the Montana State University-Northern Lights have a good group, too. Northern graduated some standouts, including former All-Conference performer Rostyn Pace, but the Lights return a veteran at guard in the massive Dylan Murphy, as well as one of the top centers in the conference in Shomari Burton.
Murphy, who stands a hulking 6-6 and weighs 300 pounds, is an NFL-sized linemen who can play both guard and tackle. He’s also started for two seasons now, and enters his junior year ready to be one of the top offensive linemen in the conference. Burton transferred to Northern a season ago and started every game at center for the Lights. Burton (6-2, 305) returns to anchor a Lights’ offensive line that returns seven letter winners from a year ago, and one that could be as good as any in the league.
“We feel good about where we are on the offensive line,” MSU-N head coach Mark Samson said. “We’ve got seven quality guys coming back there. And I think Dylan Murphy certainly deserves to be in the conversation as one of those players who is going to be very good this season.”
Here’s a look at the rest of the Frontier Conference, and its top returning offensive linemen.
Nowhere in the Frontier has success equated to a great offensive line more than at Carroll College. The Saints have seemingly put together a great front five every single season that Mike Van Diest has been in charge, and the 2014 season will be no different.
Carroll graduated some major talent and size up front, but the Saints return standout Ryan Armstrong (6-4, 295) to be the centerpiece for what will be another great Carroll line, and running game. Look for brothers Andrew and Michael Blum to also step up and make a difference in front of Carroll star back Dustin Rinker this season.
Rocky Mountain College has also been built on great offensive lines of late. But the Bears graduated several key members of one of the top lines in the league a season ago. And while the Bears will be new on the front this season, the massive Zach Uskoski (6-0, 310) could step into a major role this season. At UM-Western, the line will also be key as the Bulldogs look to have the makings of a potent running attack this season. The Bulldogs return All-Conference standout Will Thacker (6-1, 290) for his junior season, while Nick Brown (6-1, 272) was All-Conference as a sophomore. Montana Tech also has a dangerous running game, and it might get even better as the Orediggers bring back perhaps the most in-tact offensive line in the league. All five starters return for the Diggers, including three-year starter Mack Ferko (6-1, 280) and Ryan Stemple (6-3, 300), who started every game for the Diggers as a freshman a year ago.
Both Eastern and Southern Oregon have also had some massive offensive lines of late. EOU has had some especially good linemen in recent seasons, but the Mounties will have to rebuild the line this season. That won’t be the case for the Raiders, who return not one, but two of the premier offensive linemen in the league. Drew Gibson (6-6, 280) is a two-time All-Conference performer, while Max Proudfit (6-2, 290) earned All-Conference honors in 2013, and he and Gibson return to anchor an outstanding SOU line.
Note: This is the second installment in a series of breakdowns of the upcoming Frontier Conference football season. Next up will be a look at the top returning defensive linemen in the Frontier on Friday, followed by a preview of the best running backs in the league on Monday.