DSU’s offensive line looks to leadWhat’s the best cure for a questionable backfield? How about a healthy and veteran offensive line? That’s the situation Dickinson State is in this season.
By: Dustin Monke, The Dickinson Press
What’s the best cure for a questionable backfield? How about a healthy and veteran offensive line?
That’s the situation Dickinson State is in this season.
The Blue Hawks return their entire starting offensive line from last season and all of their tight ends. A couple of the supposed “backups” on the offensive line have been or might as well be considered starters.
Nonetheless, senior center Doug Staley said the line doesn’t consider itself outstanding, especially after DSU struggled to a 4-6 overall record in 2011.
“There’s a lot to prove,” Staley said. “We haven’t run the ball in past years like we’d like to. We’re really looking to step that up this year. We don’t want to relay on the pass. We want to run the ball.”
It won’t be easy though.
Brennan Haughian, who had a breakout season as a sophomore and fell short of 1,000 yards rushing despite only being the team’s featured back for seven games, did not return for his junior season.
That leaves the Blue Hawks with an untested backfield that has combined for only 29 carries and 88 yards rushing in their collective careers — that’s counting sophomore Riley Moore, the projected starting tailback who’ll sit out tonight’s season opener against Rocky Mountain College with a knee injury, but doesn’t include senior quarterback Dave Velasquez.
Up front, DSU will go with seniors Ry O’Connor and Carl Dynneson at left and right tackle, respectively, senior Luke Runyon at left guard and junior Ryan Payne at right guard. Senior Kyle Enebo is a backup at tackle and guard and senior center Jerome Hoffman will share time with Staley. Senior Nate Zachmann starts at tight end.
“Our offensive line is good. We’ve got a lot of returners,” said Dynneson, a Sidney, Mont., native. “It’s going to be nice to see what that does for us throughout the season, throughout the games.”
Staley and Hoffman have been sharing the center role for four years now and have long since fallen into a groove, no matter who they’re snapping the ball to.
“We both kind of know the talent is there for both of us and we realize that we both play because we’re trying to keep each other fresh,” Staley said. “It’s not a big deal because we both know why it happens.”
Having an experienced front five should help DSU find a balance offensively against a Rocky defense that held Jamestown College to 245 total yards last week and tonight gets all-Frontier Conference defensive lineman Jacob Scharbrough back from an injury he suffered in an offseason car accident.
Velasquez said he is comfortable having an intelligent and veteran offensive line protecting him.
“We help each other out and we mesh so well together,” Velasquez said. “If something goes on and we need to break, they know what I’m going to do. I can count on them to get to where they need to be and pick up defenses or blitzes, anything like that. It takes a lot of weight off my shoulders.”
Rocky’s coach happy to be playing at night, looking for defense to lead
Rocky head coach Brian Armstrong said he’s thankful for the game’s 7 p.m. start time — and it’s not just because temperatures expected to hit the 90s this afternoon.
Armstrong said the price tag associated with housing an entire football team in a Dickinson hotel, where prices have skyrocketed because of the oil boom, would have taken a bite out of his team’s budget.
“A five-hour bus ride isn’t ideal for us, but budgets being what they are, you do what you do,” he said.
The fifth-year coach, who has a 3-1 record against DSU, said aside from the bus ride, he hopes Saturday is a good day for his team. It is the first-ever Frontier Conference football game for DSU and Rocky’s Frontier opener.
The Bears are looking to improve to 2-0 after beating Jamestown College 38-19 on Aug. 24 at Miles City, Mont. — a win that came despite Rocky committing six turnovers.
“We were very sloppy with the football last week,” Armstrong said. “There’s no way we should win a game with six turnovers. Hopefully that’s a learning, teachable moment and hopefully they understand the importance of that and we can correct it.”
The Bears will look to sophomore quarterback Bryce Baker, a returning starter, to settle down the offense. He threw for 265 yards and three touchdowns against the Jimmies while working with relatively new receivers.
Armstrong hopes Rocky can rely on its defense to keep DSU in check.
“Defensively, I thought our first group played a pretty solid game (against Jamestown),” Armstrong said. “We’ve got a little bit more experience defensively than we do offensively.”
Blue Hawk Bites
For each Dickinson State football game this season, Press Sports Editor Dustin Monke will give you four items to keep an eye on.
— DSU’s running backs: Aside from QB Dave Velasquez, the Blue Hawks are thin and inexperienced in the backfield, especially at their most important offensive position. Senior Presley Straub gets the start at tailback, where he hasn’t played since his freshman season.
— Rocky’s no-huddle offense: These Bears don’t lumber around the field. They’re fast to the ball and move quick behind sophomore QB Bryce Baker, which could present quite a challenge to DSU’s young defense.
— Baby Blue Hawks: Because of a lack of depth throughout the field, a handful of freshmen will get their first game experience. Look for newcomers offensively, defensively and on special teams.
— Hank Biesiot: The old ball coach may not care much about his chase for the official NAIA coaching wins record, but many people do. He needs a win today to tie Frosty Westering as the all-time winningest coach in NAIA football.