Everything starts and ends with good players on the offensive line.
Central Michigan football is no different when it comes to building the team from the inside out with athletes who make the team bigger and more athletic.
Head coach Dan Enos said that, in the time that he has been here, his philosophy has remained the same, and that is to build the program from the inside out.
“It all starts there (offensive line),” Enos said. “I know people always say that, and it’s not a cliché … we try to recruit offensive linemen to make our team bigger and more athletic. If you can’t pass protect and run the football, you’re going to have problems. It all starts up front with them being physical and being sound with their techniques and schemes.”
With four returning starters on the offensive line, Enos said the team didn’t expect to be looking at too many linemen in the recruiting process, but that changed over the course of the offseason.
“This year, we had the opportunity to get some very good linemen,” Enos said. “As we kept going through recruiting, we weren’t going to take that many lineman, but we kept seeing good players that wanted to come here, and we took them.”
Enos said this class of linemen was solid but emphasized the importance of player development and conditioning, especially when working with the younger linemen.
“That’s going to really, really pay dividends in the future,” Enos said. “I think it’s a really good class, but, with those guys, you have to be able to develop them with their strength and conditioning and the maturity part of it are very important.”
Some of the leaders up front for the Chippewas include four returning starters. Sophomore Nick Beamish was named offensive rookie of the year and started every game last season at center, while junior Andy Phillips was solid at the left guard spot all season as well, starting every game.
Enos said both Beamish and Phillips provide a leadership value and a physicality presence on the team that helped them last year.
“They are both very physical guys and run extremely well … they’re both smart and tough, and they love playing football,” Enos said. “Those guys are just in another long line of guys in that room that take a lot of pride being physical and knowing what to do in order to be leaders on this team. Those two guys played tremendous for us last year and have had a very good spring.”
The right tackle position is expected to be taken by junior Kevin Henry, who also could be a candidate for the vacant right guard spot. Henry started seven games for the Chippewas, including four as a freshman and three last season after taking over for right tackle Mike Repovz on Nov. 23 against UMass.
Senior Jake Olson will be taking over the left tackle position vacated by Eric Fisher, who is bound for the NFL. Olson has started 26 games in his career but missed most of 2012 with a season-ending injury early on in the season.
“He’s really progressing,” Enos said. “Our medical staff feels he is ahead of schedule. He’s over 300 pounds, and he is really strong. He has played a lot of football around here. We thought we had the best left tackle in the league last year, and, if Jake is healthy, I think we will have the best left tackle in the league again this year.”
The right guard position is, as of right now, an open competition with many guys vying for that starting spot. Many different players, Enos said, have been worked out at the position this spring, and he said, right now, the staff is evaluating guys.
“We got a lot of guys and have done a good job of evaluating and bringing guys in,” Enos said. “We have a lot of competition and continue to add guys to the fold as we get deeper and stronger.”
A few of the guys Enos mentioned to potentially fill the right guard spot are redshirt freshmen Colin Goetz and Connor Collins, sophomores Ramadan Ahmeti and Kenny Rogers and fifth-year senior Cody Pettit.