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franklin county times

Russellville offensive line is working against stereotypes, seeking improvement

By Staff
Scot Beard
RUSSELLVILLE – In the sport of football, certain ideas are projected onto different positions.
Quarterbacks are seen as confident and receivers are seen as cocky. Then, there are the offensive lineman.
Many people see these big guys as lumbering idiots that are only on the field to push people around. Russellville High School offensive line coach Ted Ikerd sees things differently.
"The stereotype of the big, dumb lineman can't exist because of the offenses that are run today," Ikerd said.
With the emphasis on offensive success in today's game, coaches depend on solid play from their linemen to give the offense a chance to work.
The center begins every offensive play by snapping the ball to the quarterback. The exchange must be clean, or there could be a turnover. After the snap, he must join the guards and tackles in whatever blocking scheme is required for the play.
Sometimes the entire line stands its ground to block on passing plays while other times the guards may pull to block downfield on a running play. The entire time, the linemen try to prevent any number of defenders from reaching the quarterback.
They must know the playbook as well as the quarterback does and they must be able to adjust to opposing defenses.
"The o-line has to do a lot of thinking from time to time," said Russellville coach Doug Goodwin. "They have to know how to block on every pass play and every run play against multiple defenses."
Ikerd said the key to success is repetition. He said his linemen work on the same drills day in and day out because if they do it everyday for several weeks then they will be able to do things right.
He said there are three fundamental skills he stress to his linemen – proper footwork, proper head placement and proper hand placement.
The proper footwork is important for maintaining balance, which is needed to stop defenders from reaching the backfield.
Proper head placement allows the linemen to pickup defenders that are trying to sack the quarterback or stop a running play for a loss of yardage.
For offensive linemen hand placement is crucial. A hand in the wrong spot can lead to a holding penalty, which can kill a drive.
"If they can do those three things, they can block anybody," Ikerd said.
The coaching staff expects great things from the offensive line this season as it is a very experienced group – only two starters are missing from last year – especially after a strong showing during spring practice.
Unfortunately, the group has gotten off to a slow start this summer. Goodwin said he thinks the line has not gotten mentally or physically tough enough to compete at a strong level. Ikerd said the line lacks one key ingredient – unity.
The Golden Tigers have five capable linemen, but it will not be productive if they cannot work as a cohesive unit.
"They are not working five as one," Ikerd said.
With the season only two weeks away, the line has little time to perfect that last, crucial skill.