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With elders gone, Dickinson State offensive line jobs up for grabs

Sophomore offensive lineman Jeff Fisher has had a sizable change in perspective over the past year. As a freshman, the 6-foot-2 Baker, Mont., native joined DSU and slid into a comfortable role behind three senior linemen. All were captains and tw...

Dickinson State freshman center Morgan Bishop, right, attempts to block a teammate at practice earlier this week at the Biesiot Activities Center. (Press Photo by Parker Cotton)
Dickinson State freshman center Morgan Bishop, right, attempts to block a teammate at practice earlier this week at the Biesiot Activities Center. (Press Photo by Parker Cotton)

Sophomore offensive lineman Jeff Fisher has had a sizable change in perspective over the past year.

As a freshman, the 6-foot-2 Baker, Mont., native joined DSU and slid into a comfortable role behind three senior linemen. All were captains and two of them - Meyer Bohn and Jacob Elmore - entered the season as preseason all-conference picks.

Following their accomplished and self-evident lead, Fisher compiled a wonderful first season which ended in first-team all-conference honors alongside Bohn and Lane Millay, the third member of the senior captain trio.

Bohn, vocal and well-regarded by players and coaches alike, was also named an NAIA all-American.

This season, the inevitable roster turnover that every team has to endure hit the offensive line the hardest.

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Those three stable forces have been been replaced with transfers, freshman and otherwise untested players. Now, suddenly, Fisher finds himself a de facto voice of leadership.

Fellow sophomore Kordell Cummins is the only other offensive lineman who has seen significant playing time with the Blue Hawks. The other three members of the projected starting lineup will all be making their first start for DSU this weekend.

"Walking into the locker room, not hearing one of Meyer's weird jokes, it's been a lot different," said Fisher, laughing. "With them gone I think the coaches expect more out of me, and I expect more out of me. Having that new role is kind of weird right now, but I've accepted it, I'm trying to live up to the expectations that Mayer and Lane and Jake had. It's going to be hard, but well worth doing."

While the winds of change swept in a new look offensive line, it also ushered in a coaching change.

Coach Ryan Payne, a DSU football alumnus who oversaw the tight ends the previous two seasons, stepped into a new role this season as offensive line coach.

A former lineman himself, Payne observed the experience of last season's core first-hand. With the need for drastic replacement this season, his goal in training camp was to preach the basics to his players.

Those basic fundamentals of the game may not be review worthy when working with a trove of proven talent and leadership, but Payne said he wanted to make sure this year's players were on the same page from the ground up.

"I came in and changed a few things around. I tried to reset a few things. The big thing through training camp was getting back to the basics, the proper techniques," Payne said. "Getting real good at the simple stuff and going from there."

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Both Payne and head coach Pete Stanton are excited about senior transfer Deon Paulson. Paulson, at 6-foot-5, forwent his final year at University of Mary to play for the Blue Hawks.

The coaches seem to think he will step in and fill one of those vacant starting spots valiantly.

As currently configured, Cummins, Fisher and Paulson make up three of the five members of the starting line.

Freshman Morgan Bishop, the center, and sophomore Devin Schwanz, a tackle who saw the field sparingly last season, rounds out the group.

Nothing is set in stone, though, with a few other names thrown in as potential starters throughout the season.

Sifa Vea, a junior who played last season on defense, switched over this season to help add some depth to the line. Junior Andrew Alt is another player that could factor into the equation.

Players will be mixed and matched in practice and in games until Stanton and Payne find a satisfying combination of good demeanor, physicality and toughness.

This training camp, unlike last season when there wasn't a scramble for a lineup, has been noticeably different in one specific way, Payne said.

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The ensemble of an even playing field has produced something any coach would love: some healthy contention for playing time. Payne was hoping to see every player, including Fisher, come in with an edge knowing that everything was essentially up for grabs.

So far, he likes what he has seen.

"The good thing about that position right now, is we've had some competition there. There's not just five guys that can play for us. So even Jeff (Fisher) is in a competition right now to start and play for us. That's the way it should be," Payne said. "When you have a lot of capable guys and only five guys that can start, there's a tier up and a tier down. It's been great because we have a whole lot of guys that can play around the same level so it has really bred some good back and forth."

Related Topics: COLLEGE FOOTBALLBLUE HAWKS
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