Strength Up Front: Football Preview Series Opens With Offensive Line Look
PREVIEW SERIES LINKS: Offensive Line
For years, the Princeton football team went into the preseason working towards ascending the Ivy League mountain. After a record-setting 2013 Ivy championship season, the Tigers head into this preseason looking to hold its position atop the league.
Princeton opens the preseason with a Tuesday afternoon practice, and GoPrincetonTigers.com will again preview all aspects of the 2014 Tigers through a video series throughout the next several weeks, leading up to the Sept. 20 season opener at San Diego.
The series opens today with a look at the men who quietly led the way for an offense that set Ivy League records in both scoring offense (43.7 overall/45.3 Ivy) and total offense (511.6 overall/518.0 Ivy).
Three of the five starters from the 2013 line return, including first-team All-Ivy League honoree Spenser Huston, a senior who has started 24 straight games at left tackle. Huston has been All-Ivy in each of the last two seasons, and is the clear leader of this group.
Senior Mike Ramos started all season at right tackle, a key spot protecting the blind side of left-handed quarterback Quinn Epperly. He rotated with junior Britt Colcolough, who showed significant improvement from his freshman season.
That trio gives offensive line coach Eddy Morrissey a solid rotation at tackle heading into the preseason, though there are a couple of younger players who could factor into that mix.
The third returning starter from last season is Jack Woodall, who played next to Huston at left guard. That duo provides some immediate chemistry for a rushing offense that ranked second in the league last season and averaged more than 217 yards on the ground per game.
Two other potential starters have starting experience of their own. Senior Taylor Pearson missed the 2013 season, but he started every game on the offensive line during the 2012 season. Pearson has started at both the guard and tackle positions, but figures to open this preseason at one of the guard spots.
Senior Joe Tull was part of the guard and center rotation, and saw significant time at center after Joe Goss was injured at Dartmouth last season. He and classmate Ryan Peloquin have the most experience at center, a position that should generate significant interest this preseason. After all …
While most of the key offensive players return from the 2013 championship season, the one player with the most experience has graduated. Joe Goss joined Huston on the All-Ivy League First Team last season, and he started 38 of the last 39 games at that position. In an offense that demands both speed and quick decision-making, Goss was as reliable as they get.
Classmate Max Coale started next to Goss at right guard, though he dealt with injuries for much of the season.
WHO COULD ALSO MAKE AN IMPACT?
Juniors Caleb Slate and Alec Dixon are strong contenders to fit into the rotation at the guard positions. Slate had an especially strong spring, and he was valuable as a snapper in the kicking game last season. Senior Max Wardaki will vie for time at the tackle spot as well.
For years, freshmen and sophomore were earning significant time on the offensive line because Morrissey wasn't satisfied with the overall depth. As that has developed, more upperclassmen play meaningful minutes, which allows the younger guys to develop both physically and in their understanding of the offense.
Of course, that doesn't mean some younger guys won't play. A couple sophomores to watch early are Mason Darrow, the younger brother of former Tiger basketball standout Mack Darrow, and Jack Knight. Morrissey also liked the group of freshmen he brought to campus, though they will have to impress early to earn a spot in the rotation.
A FEW NUMBERS TO KNOW …
448 • Princeton averaged 89.6 plays per game last season. Multiply that by five, and that is an average of 448 plays per game by an offensive lineman, each of which involve a certain level of physical impact. Depth matters at this position.
13 • It had been 13 years (2000) since a Princeton offensive lineman was named to the All-Ivy League First Team, but two earned that honor last season. Huston — and several teammates — are looking to make sure the Tigers start a streak of making the first team, which is always a sign of a successful offense.
1 • Games started at center by any member of the 2014 roster (Peloquin started the 2012 Penn game).
NEXT IN THE PREVIEW SERIES: wide receivers/tight ends.