By Mike McCall
August 26, 2012
They can’t just take a back seat to the starters.” CHRIS BROWNE, SU offensive lineman on the team’s younger linemen
With experience, talent and a tight-knit atmosphere, Southern’s top five offensive linemen won’t be the cause of many sleepless nights for their coaches.
The starting group — from left to right: Chris Browne, Zach Brown, Aaron Hall, Dwayne Houston and Taylon Jones — is solid, but after that, the Jaguars don’t have anyone proven enough to rely on during games.
For the nightmare scenario, look no further than Tuesday’s practice, when Hall (right ankle) and Jones (concussion, hand injury) were both held out. With the season just around the corner, the pressure to find linemen Nos. 6 and 7 has intensified.
“They’re tough guys, but we have to have somebody to step up at every position,” offensive line coach Paul Lounsberry said. “Right now, I just don’t think we have it yet. I’m looking for guys to step up, take charge and really push for a starting job.”
The opportunities have been plentiful lately.
Jones’ nearly weeklong absence has meant more reps at right tackle for redshirt freshmen Eric Janeau and Brandon Thibodeaux, and there’s no timetable yet for his return. Hall, who’s day-to-day, watched practice with his right ankle wrapped, looking on as true freshman Terrell Lee took over his snapping duties.
But none have made the leap from first-team fill-in to first-team fit.
Janeau — a 6-foot-4, 275-pounder who was used as a tight end in practices last year — is the top target so far, and Browne expects him to be a valuable backup at left and right tackle.
But that’s just the problem. Lounsberry needs his backups to stop looking like backups.
“He has got to be (as reliable as a starter),” Lounsberry said of Janeau. “He has had the reps because Taylon has been out, and he’s got a lot of good things he does, but he has to get more physical, get stronger and get better. So he’s probably the furthest along of that group, but he’s not in the second group right now, he’s in the first group.”
That’s the mentality Browne is trying to pass along to his younger linemates.
The fifth-year senior is now in graduate school, but as a freshman, he worked his way up to start — a mission he had written down before the season began.
“They can’t just take a back seat to the starters,” Browne said. “You have to be ready. First of all, when you’re a freshman, you should be wanting to take somebody’s spot anyway, so that has to be their goal.
“I tell them, and they think I’m playing,” Browne added. “I’m like, ‘Come get it. If you’re hungrier than me, take my spot.’ That’s how I feel.”
So far, the only major changes to the depth chart have been because of injuries, but the competition got a little tougher Tuesday when freshman Anthony Mosley was switched from defensive line to offense.
Mosley stood out in his first day, because of attire if nothing else. His was the only white jersey in a sea of blue, the color reserved for offensive players.
Coach Stump Mitchell made the decision to move Mosley shortly before practice and notified him when he got to the field. He offered the 6-foot-1, 260-pounder some one-on-one instruction, and while he’s still raw, there were positive signs.
“I like the way he comes off the ball,” Mitchell said, adding that he expects the move to be permanent. “He gives us a little depth with Taylon not being able to play, and with Aaron down a little bit, we just needed another offensive lineman. He did some good things today.”
Mosley obviously has a long way to go, but Lounsberry and Browne also praised his aggressiveness and quickness off the line.
He can now be grouped in with Janeau, Thibodeaux, Lee and others like Allan Spry and Trae’ Tiller — a list of names whom Southern desperately needs to improve in a hurry.
“It’s always consistency,” Lounsberry said. “It’s aggressiveness, it’s strength, it’s having a little football savvy and learning from experience — all of that.”
Browne is making sure they get that message.
The injuries will inevitably come, and so will their time to step up.
But will they?
“Oh, they don’t have a choice,” Browne said.