Offensive line has been one of the more interesting position groups to watch in in camp thus far with players shuffling to new positions, veterans looking to earn their chance to start, two new starters at tackle, redshirt freshmen taking more meaningful reps, and a promising group of high school recruits who we expect to be solid contributors a couple of years down the road. The unit had an inconsistent year in 2013 and is looking to bounce back this season. The group is being coached under the watchful eyes of Travis Serke along with newcomers to the coaching staff, Scott Flory and Lane Bryksa.
“We’ve turned over some kids,” noted Coach Serke, “but I’ll tell you this: this has been the best recruiting year that we’ve had. Those five, young high school OLinemen all came in and tested the bench press at 225 pounds; that had never happened with an entire group since I’ve been here. They are big, they are strong, in pretty good shape, and their foot movement is fantastic. They are going to be pushing some second and third year guys and it’s great to have that competition.”
While the future is bright for the unit, it’s only natural that the more immediate concern is the battle for the five starting spots; Serke gave Huskie Outsider an update on the competition taking place. “We’ve got seven very good football players that will compete for five spots.” One of the changes to the line is moving Matt Leung from left tackle inside to right guard, a position the coaching staff feels he is more naturally suited to play. “He’s come into camp at about 290 pounds, he’s moving like a cat, and he’s powerful and strong which is what we need at the guard position.” Leung led the Huskies in their bench press testing with 35 reps of 225 pounds. “We have three excellent tackles in Ryan Breadner, Evan Johnson, and Drew Digout – two of them are going to play and one is going to back up, and that’s football.” Matt Czerniak is a veteran looking to earn his opportunity to start at left guard. “He’s paid his dues. He’s a very smart football player, he’s been in the weight room, and he’s done lots of conditioning and agility work; he’s going to get his chance.” The most veteran presence along the line is Brad Nehring, who has been a very good starting centre for four years. “He’s one of the best centres in Canada West,” Coach Serke boasted of the fifth year Huskie. “He’s been a little underrated and hopefully we all have a good year.”
The offensive line is quick to be blamed when sacks are allowed or the run game falters. Given that Huskie Outsider has started to see progress in the run game during camp – an area targeted for improvement by Coach Towriss and the entire staff – the OLine deserves its share of credit for the progress being made. Coach Serke also weighed in with another reason for the improvement. “Let’s give credit where it’s due, and Scott Flory deserves some accolades here,” he said of the Huskies’ new run game coordinator. “There’s no replacing 15 years of CFL experience, and he’s going to be a great asset to our team.”
Lane Bryksa, the starting right guard for the Huskies during the previous two seasons, is another exciting new addition to the coaching staff. “He is going to be a fantastic coach, and he has already demonstrated that in his role on the staff for Saskatchewan’s under16 team.” Serke is especially impressed with how Bryksa has ingratiated himself with the Huskie program. “Unfortunately, Lane only played two years for us,” following a junior career with the Hilltops,” but it’s like he’s been here for five. He is just so well liked and respected by both the players and coaches. We are excited that he has chosen to remain a part of the Huskie program as a coach.”
It is very likely that the starting tackle spots won’t be nailed down until after the green and white scrimmage that takes place this Friday. Huskie Outsider will continue to maintain a close eye on the competition, and will report on who has earned the spots as we enter the first week of the CanWest season.