Offensive line hopes to be stable for Eastern


File Photo

Members of the Eastern offensive line stand ready to take their places in a practice last spring. The average weight of Eastern’s starting linemen is 305 lbs.

JJ Bullock, Sports Editor


With so many changes happening to the Eastern football team right now, four new quarterbacks, a new offensive coordinator and an entirely new offense, the team will need stability now more than ever, wherever they can get it. 

The offensive line hopes to provide that consistency.

The line for the Panthers, contrary to the quarterback position, is returning a lot of familiar faces from last season. Players like Aaron Callaway, Josh Doyle and Grant Branch all provide senior leadership in that unit. On that same token, guys such as Cole Hoover, Luther Harris, Jose Sanchez and Ben Solomon, to name a few, give the offense line unit depth and reliability.

“We have got some older guys that have played quite a bit, and they’re coming right along and learning this new system, and it’s some different things as far as the techniques that we are doing now as opposed to what we were doing,” head coach Kim Dameron said. “Anytime you go into a new system it’s some new learning, but these older guys have done a good job of doing that.”

Callaway, who is likely to be the starter at right tackle for Eastern after playing right guard last year, said he is excited to be a part of this unit.

“We have got a lot of guys who are ready to come in and contribute, we have got a lot of depth, and we have got a lot of guys who have played a lot of football here,” Callaway said. “Me and (Branch) have played a bunch and (Harris) played a little bit, and we have got some young guys like Johari (Branch) and maybe Eliki (Tanuvasa) who maybe can step in and play some good minutes for us.”

Versatility of all the offensive linemen has been very important to the Panthers as well in fall camp. Dameron highlighted that a lot of the players, including Callaway and Grant Branch, could be asked to play the left or the right side of the line. 

Dameron said Callaway is a player that could, if need be, play all five offensive line positions. Grant Branch could play on the left or right side, and inside guys like Hoover, Johari Branch, Tanuvasa and Harris can rotate to any of the inside positions on the line.

“(Having to play any position) keeps you on your toes,” Callaway said. “You need to know what everyone is doing on every single play. But it also helps out our communication because we do know what everyone has to do on every single play, so we can help out, make the right calls and get everyone moving in the right direction.”

The transition to the air-raid offensive has brought changes to the offensive line as well; blocking is not simply just blocking. Dameron said the players have been learning new schemes and mentioned splits are something specific that are different in the new offense. 

The pace the offense moves has been one of the biggest changes for everyone to make, especially the offensive line. The air-raid offense moves very fast, giving these big men little time to rest between plays.

“I think we’re handling (the new offense) now. We’re getting in a lot better shape than we were in the spring and the beginning of camp,” Callaway said. “We’re getting better with the tempo, getting better with running the ball and finishing every play. The plays are pretty similar to what we run, we have the new terminology down, so I am excited about it.”

 The offensive line has played well in both of the scrimmages this fall, except for a brief period of struggles at the very beginning of the first scrimmage, but other than that it’s been good. 

The unit has given all the quarterbacks a good amount of time to throw on most throws and multiple times has opened large holes in the run game leading to big gains. 

The hope is that if the offensive line can go out and play consistent, it will not matter who wins the quarterback battle, just as long as they are well-protected.

JJ Bullock can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]