By Chris Williams, CycloneFanatic.com Publisher
Offensive linemen never get any attention. The only time they are talked about is after they screw up. Take the center position for instance. The only time the center on a football team gets talked about is when he botches a snap. Am I wrong?
Iowa State was blessed with one of the best snappers in the Big 12 last season in Reggie Stephens. Stephens was arguably one of Iowa State’s most valuable players too. When Stephens missed last year’s Texas A&M game after an appendectomy, the offense mustered up only 10 points. A shadow of Stephens returned the next week against Oklahoma State, where the Cyclones put up only eight points.
The bottom line is, when Reggie Stephens was healthy, it gave Iowa State’s offense a much better chance to succeed. Offensive line coach Bill Bleil is a real stickler about the center being the leader for the rest of the line. Stephens is now gone.
Enter senior Ben Lamaak into the equation.
Lamaak has played just about everywhere on the line since he got to Iowa State. He has now been moved into that imperative center position.
Physically, it shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Lamaak has been snapping the football in preparation for this since last season. It’s that leadership thing that Stephens brought to the table that was so priceless. Lamaak knows that and he’s ready for the challenge.
“It isn’t as easy as it looks,” Lamaak said. “You get out there and you have to make the calls. You have a guy a foot away from you so getting it back there is harder than it looks. I am used to it though and it is kind of second nature now.”
On Tuesday morning, I asked Paul Rhoads about this transition and was a bit surprised with his answer. According to Rhoads, Lamaak is already a little bit ahead of Stephens in one very essential part of playing the position.
“One of the things that I was always on Reggie Stephens about a year ago was the accuracy of his snaps,” Rhoads said. “To the naked eye, I don’t know how much you saw that we had problems with certain plays getting started, just because the timing of the snap and getting it fielded, getting it in position to make a handoff, starting the passing game or whatever it is. Ben already is more accurate with that aspect of it. Ben is a very intelligent football player, which has to be in place from that center position because of all the calls and checks that Coach Bliel asks out of that position in identifying pass protection or who we are blocking for the run game or so forth.”
There is more good news when breaking down this modification to the offensive line. Chemistry absolutely will not be an issue with Lamaak and quarterback Austen Arnaud. The two are roommates and very good friends.
“He (Arnaud) will definitely know when it is a bad snap,” Lamaak said. “That’s for sure. He kind of blames it on me but I’ll take the blame.” “We are with each other every night. That definitely helps.”
There is no doubt in my mind that even without Stephens, Iowa State’s offensive line will be a major strength next season. From left to right, the depth chart looks like this. I’m also going to list their spring weights.
LT: Kelechi Osemele, 327-pounds
LG: Alex Alverex, 300-pounds
C: Ben Lamaak, 315-pounds
RG: Scott Haughton, 337-pounds
RT: Brayden Burris, 276-pounds
That is one mammoth line. Burris is the only newcomer to the unit and from what I’ve been told, he was good enough to start consistently for the Cyclones last season. I assume that he’ll put on more weight before the season starts.
While there are still plenty of questions regarding Iowa State’s offense for next year, the line shouldn’t be one of them.