Line Play the biggest question for Colonels

September 05, 2003|MIKE MARSEE


Staff Writer

It's all on the line at Centre College.

Well, maybe not everything. But there is a lot riding on line play as the Colonels prepare to open the season.

The readiness of both the offensive and defensive lines is the biggest question mark as Centre heads to Ohio today for Saturday's game against Kenyon.

Centre coach Andy Frye has said he believes the lines will be more athletic than in recent years and will develop into strong units. But their inexperience can't be overlooked, as they are the youngest part of a relatively young team.


"The urgency, especially with a young team, is to grow them up quickly," Frye said.

The Colonels will start three or four sophomores on an offensive line that has only one returning starter. The starting front four on defense will include a freshman, two sophomores and a senior who is new to his position.

Frye got a good look at both units in the Colonels' scrimmage last weekend at Hanover, and the grades he gave were mixed.

In the first quarter of the scrimmage, Centre's offense held the ball for more than 13 minutes, and Frye said the blockers had a lot to do with that.

"Our offensive line just grew up very quickly," he said.

As for the defensive line, Frye said it still has some growing to do.

"The defensive line, to me, is taking a little more time to mature," he said.

Frye said the scrimmage wasn't a fair test for that unit because Hanover throws so much more than other teams Centre will see.

"They haven't yet been tested in the running game," he said.

But the Centre coach said he was pleased with the progress shown by Danville native Justin Atkins, a sophomore who will start at defensive tackle.

"Justin has done an outstanding job of preparing for this year," Frye said.

Atkins will start alongside either Adam Priestwood or John Hast, two sophomores battling for the other tackle spot. The starting ends will be Brian Dougherty, a freshman from Hopkinsville, and Solomon Parker, a senior who moves up from linebacker.

The anchor of the offensive line is right guard Patrick Newman, a 6-5, 305-pound senior.

"He might be one of the best linemen in the conference," Frye said.

Sophomore Justin Rowe and junior Jacob Dunn could split time at right tackle, while the other offensive line starters will be sophomores Brian Martinko at center, Thomas Dunn at left guard and Tyler Davidson at left tackle.

That group will be charged with protecting junior quarterback Brian Behrendt, who returns after throwing for 2,396 yards and 16 touchdowns in his first year as a starter.

"He's matured a lot," Frye said. "He really handled the offense well (at Hanover)."

Finding a placekicker has been a priority in the preseason, but Frye said neither of the two sophomore candidates, Danville native Bennett Clark and Chris Thompson, has consistently outperformed the other.

Centre has a smallish class of 11 seniors, but Frye said that class has provided good leadership and set a good tone in preseason workouts.

"This senior class, these guys have fun," Frye said. "They play hard, but you can tell they're having a blast, and it rubs off to the rest of the team. I'm really looking forward to just seeing this team play."

That chance comes Saturday against a rebuilding Kenyon team playing its first game under a new coach, Ted Stanley.

The Lords, who have been plagued by thin rosters in back-to-back 1-9 seasons, were outscored 481-96 last season, giving up more than 50 points in five of their 10 games.

"We can't overlook Kenyon," Frye said. "When you play a team like Kenyon, they've got two advantages: They've got a new coaching staff, and morale is high. And we don't know a thing about what they will do to us.

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