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2017 Frontier Conference Football Preview: O-Linemen

The big guys up front not to be overlooked


Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Just a junior, Montana State University-Northern left tackle Clint Willis should have a breakout season and will be a veteran leader on the Lights' offensive line. For a look at the top wide receivers and tight ends in the Frontier Conference, see Monday's Havre Daily News.

There's no debating that, in football, offensive linemen are undervalued at times. But don't tell that to the quarterbacks they protect, and the running backs they block for.

In the Frontier Conference, offensive linemen are as essential as anywhere else in football. In recent years, the league has produced some of the most dominant running backs in the NAIA, and a big reason for that is, the talent in front of them.

And there's plenty of talented offensive linemen coming back to the Frontier Conference this fall.

At Montana State University-Northern, the offensive line could be a real strength for the Lights, as they return a bevy of starters. Northern did lose two-time All-Conference star Pete Morales, but the Lights have plenty of beef up front, including junior Clint Willis (6-6, 280). Willis will start at left tackle for the Lights this season, and while he's already a two-year starter, this could certainly be his breakout year, and he will also be counted upon to be one of the veteran anchors of Northern's offensive front.

When it comes to anchors, Carroll College has a big one in senior Chris Emter. Emter (6-4, 300) is the only returning First-Team All-Conference performer in the Frontier in 2017, and, with Carroll wanting to continue to assume its identity as a team that loves to run the football, Emter isn't just one of the best offensive linemen in the Frontier, he's the foundation for much of what the Fighting Saints want to do offensively this coming season.

But as much as Carroll and others like to run the ball, perhaps no one does more than the College of Idaho. The Yotes' option attack is predicated on having an athletic and talented offensive line. And they have one of the top returning linemen in the league as a place to start. Sam Zvirdys (6-4, 275) was an All-Conference honoree a season ago, and with him leading the way, as well as tremendous tight ends, the Yotes should be very strong in the trenches this fall.

Montana Tech head coach Chuck Morrell is also hoping his offensive line will be a strength this season. One reason why is protecting and allowing start quarterback Quinn McQueary to do what he does best - use his athleticism to make plays. But the Orediggers will also be breaking in a new crop of running backs this season, after graduating record-setting Nolan Saraceni. So, Tech's offensive line play will be key. And the Orediggers have a pair of good ones returning in center Jalen Whitley (6-3, 295) and tackle Jack Hape (6-4, 285).

Southern Oregon's offense being its explosive self also usually boasts a strong line, and the Raiders have that again this fall. With standouts Tanner Trosin at QB and Rey Vega at RB, the Raiders will have stars all over the field, but they do on the line as well. Chris Aumua (6-1, 280) is a returning All-Conference performer, while Dane Skriloff (6-6, 300) should be one to watch.

UM-Western and Rocky Mountain College also have plenty to like on the offensive line.

The Bulldogs boast senior Donovan Hucke (6-1, 285), while the Battlin' Bears are excited about returning starter Justin Farnsworth (6-2, 290) and NCAA Division II transfer John Boogard, who started every game last season for Western States in Colorado.

Editor's Note: This is the third installment in the Havre Daily News' annual preview of the upcoming Frontier Conference football season. For a look at the top wide receivers and tight ends in the Frontier, see Monday's HDN.


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