This is the fifth in a series breaking down the personnel in each area of the 2009 Bryant Hornets football team.
By Rob Patrick
The key to the success of any offense is the guys up front clearing the way and protecting. So, with one returning starter, the Bryant Hornets are counting on the development of a new group this season.
Head coach and line coach Paul Calley thinks he’s got just the guys to make it happen.
“We’re pretty good run blockers,” he stated. “We need to improve in pass protection but I thought we got better (in the preseason scrimmage) against Pine Bluff. We only had a couple of breakdowns.
“I think, compared to last year’s line, we’re more athletic,” he added. “I think we’re going to be able to pull quicker and get squared up quicker than we did last year.
“As far as overall knowledge of the game, we don’t have a lot of experience, don’t have as much as last year, but they’re learning and they want to be good. That’s the thing. They’re not satisfied with where they are and they’re going to keep working to get better.
“That’s the positive,” Calley concluded. “The negative is that we are small. When we get up against these big, physical defensive lines that want to bull-rush us on the pass and like to try to control you at the line of scrimmage on a run play, we may have some problems. But we’ve got No. 21 (Chris Rycraw) in the backfield and No. 23 (James Jones) is not bad. As long as we can get a hat on a hat and move our feet, we’ve got a chance to make yards. That’s something we haven’t had in the past. We’ve had to have a hole to run in. Now, we just need a crease.”
The returning starter is Kaleb Burns, a 5-11, 240-pound senior.
“He’s one of the best, technically, that I’ve ever had,” stated Calley. “I mean he understands the game. He does everything right and he plays hard. He’ll start at left tackle.
“At left guard, it’s going to be Landon Pickett, who will also play some defense, but he’s going to start at left guard,” continued the coach. “Ben Seale has also done well at left guard. He plays some defense too so I’m going to continue to use them both. Pickett’s also the back-up center.”
Due to injuries at tight end to Tyson Abernathy (6-1, 210, senior, knee), Cody Elmore (6-2, 195, junior, back) and Taylor Shaw (6-0, 180, sophomore, collarbone), Calley said, Seale will also get playing time there.
“We lost three tight ends in four days,” he related. “Other than Blake Heil and Josh Hampton who both start at defensive end, we didn’t have another tight end. Ben has played tackle too so he knows those rules. He’s a smart kid. He’ll pick it up fine.”
Pickett is a 5-11, 225-pound junior. Seal, also a junior, goes 5-11, 200.
The starting center is junior Justin Rauch (5-11, 280).
“He did a good job in our scrimmage against Pine Bluff,” Calley said. “We didn’t have any bad snaps and he blocked really well. He had a lot of pancakes blocks.”
At right guard, senior Brett Clemons (5-9, 200) will start.
“Brett is probably the strongest guy we’ve got, upper-body-wise,” said the coach. “He just has a bad habit of raising up too high. He’s not very big so he’s going to have to work on staying low.
“Billy Bearden (6-1, 190, junior) is his backup,” Calley said. “Billy’s a pretty physical kid. He’s kind of light too but he can play there and will probably play in our bash set.”
Another junior Austin Johnson (6-3, 240) will start at right tackle.
“Austin’s the biggest guy we have though he doesn’t weigh very much,” Calley commented. “But he’s long and he’s improving every day. I think he’ll be fine there.
“His back-up is Jordan Murdock (5-10, 170, junior). He can play either guard or tackle and could see time in our bash set also.”
The bash set was developed last year after the quarterback injuries piled up. It featured a pair of linemen in the backfield with Rycraw, the Hornets’ record-setting back.