Questions abound for the 2018 Red Raiders on the offensive side of the ball. With only one clear returning starter at the skill positions it is a good thing that the offensive line is so stable. It is rare to have all five starters return but that is exactly what is expected next season. One of the best things about having to deal with growing pains from young players is that eventually, they grow up into seasoned veterans. Unless something drastically and expectedly changes the offensive line next year will be made up of one sophomore, three juniors, and one senior.
Anchoring this crew at center is Paul Stawarz and he is also the eldest member of this line as the lone senior. Next year will be his second year to start at center after beating out Tony Morales this past spring to the surprise of many.
The two guard positions will be filled by Freshman All American, Jack Anderson, and a player that has started to play up to his considerable potential in Madison Akamnonu. Akamnonu worked his way into the starting lineup and really solidified this line early in the season and I expect him to build on the progress made this season. On the other side, Anderson has the ability to be special for the Red Raiders with his combination of athleticism and strength. He could be a literal tank next year after having a full year of strength and conditioning.
Finally, the two tackle positions are expected to be filled by Travis Bruffy and Terence Steele. While neither was perfect this year neither player was consistently beaten by defensive lineman either. This is impressive given that the two tackle positions put the most pressure on a young lineman. It could be interesting to see if there is any potential for flipping sides of the field if a certain left-handed quarterback were to win the starting job.
While the starters are all but set there is plenty of talent left to fill out the depth chart. Last year four high school offensive lineman signed with the Raiders and three of those players were given a year to watch and get stronger. It would not be a surprise to me to see Dawson Deaton, Will Farrar, and Casey Verhulst find a role in the two-deep. In addition, another large class of offensive lineman signed with the Red Raiders just a few weeks ago. These incoming Freshman; Troy Bradshaw, Weston Wright, Clayton Franks, Hakeem White, and Demarcus Marshall are in a great position to have the time to learn and add bulk before being called into action.
With a new quarterback starting for the first time it is comforting to know that he will have time to figure things out behind such an experienced and talented offensive line.