Wednesday, July 09, 2008
North Stars take hard line
North Stars take hard line
North Stars encouraged by play of offensive front
By NICK ST. DENIS
PLATTSBURGH -- When the average person thinks about offensive football, "skill position" players, such as quarterbacks, receivers and running backs come to mind.
But a driver won't get very far behind a busted engine, and the same can be said about so-called "playmakers" behind a sub-par offensive line.
Without the big guys up front, quarterbacks would have virtually no time to look off a single receiver, and running backs would be on their backs before taking the first hand off of the game.
An offensive line that gives its quarterback that extra second to make a decision, or opens up a wide hole for its running back to hit makes all the difference in an offense's production.
"If you take a poor offensive line and combine it with a bunch of playmakers at the skill positions, chances are those playmakers are going to become average players," North Stars' center and five-year veteran Nick Moore said. "But if you take average quarterbacks, receivers and running backs and put them behind a phenomenal offensive line, those players are going to be very good."
The Plattsburgh North Stars will open their Empire Football League season Saturday in Watertown.
Entering the 2008 season, the team seems to have the tools to give its Âdrivers' a smooth ride, and quarterback Kellen Nolan is the first to acknowledge it.
"I've played behind a lot of offensive lines, and this is definitely the best," he said. "They are definitely the fastest and strongest that I've ever played behind. It's awesome, they're great."
Tackles Jon Garrow, Craig Lamoy and Tim Snyder, guards Ray Nelson, Ryon Sorrell and Kelsey Lenny, and centers Moore and backup Josh Pray complete an offensive line corps that both Moore and head coach Pat Keleher say doesn't lose any production when rotated through.
The group averages 284 pounds, and around 6-3 in height this season.
"I think this year we're going to be able to line up and pound some people running the ball," Moore said. "Last year we had some success running the ball, but there were some teams that were just simply bigger than us, and I don't think that's the case this year."
He attributed Sorrell as a lineman who is good at picking up linebackers, and said he can tell by watching Garrow that "when he latches on to someone, they're not going anywhere."
Moore added that Lamoy is as quick as some of the running backs he has seen, and that Nelson's combination of technique and strength puts him among the best in the league.
Lenny didn't play last season, but gained starting experience during the '05 and '06 seasons; though he was sidelined due to injuries for part of the time.
Snyder has an opportunity to make an impact this season. The young tackle surprised Moore in practice during preseason.
"I didn't even notice until one of our linebackers pointed out how good his feet are," he said.
Moore said his own experience in the league allowed him to learn what certain defensive linemen and linebackers' habits are, since he's faced virtually every team in the league and lines up against a lot of the same players.
Pray, whom Keleher referred to as an "outstanding defensive player" earlier in the preseason, is a serviceable backup to Moore if he needs to be replaced at any time during a game this season.
The line has its own fine supporting cast in running backs Brandon Keleher and Kyle Nolan, both solid blockers in pass protection, as well as an athletic quarterback in (Kellen) Nolan.
Though Nolan has the ability to produce plays when scrambling, the line approaches their play assignments as if their quarterback was "a 300-pound lineman who isn't able to move" as motivation to play at the highest level possible, Moore said.
If all of the players in the eight-man rotation stay healthy and play to their potential, there is no doubt the offensive line will play a pivotal role in the Stars' organization.
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