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2011 Big Sky position rankings: Offensive line
Consistency, longevity … talent.
Those are the proper descriptions for this year’s crop of offensive linemen in the Big Sky Conference. All 10 of our picks have been named to an All-Big Sky team in the past – some more than once.
With the quality and quantity of linemen returning to the league this year, our list probably could have gone 15 deep. Save for Idaho State, every team has a returning offensive lineman who was selected all-conference after the 2010 season.
These guys are the real deal. Enjoy our list of the Top 10 linemen for 2011:
TOP 10 OFFENSIVE LINEMEN
1 - J.C. Oram, Sr., G, Weber State
Comment: All-American has made 32 career starts.
2 - Chris Powers, Sr., C, Eastern Washington
Comment: The anchor to EWU’s success up front.
3 - Caleb Turner, Sr., T, Weber State
Comment: Protected Cameron Higgins’ blind side to beautifully.
4 - Gabe Jackson, Sr., T, Eastern Washington
Comment: Entering his third season as Eagles’ left tackle.
5 - Alex Terrien, Sr., C, Montana State
Comment: A picture of consistency up front.
6 - Alex Mott, Sr., G, Northern Arizona
Comment: Helped NAU get more than 1,500 yards in ‘10.
7 -Adam Kleffner, Sr., C, Portland State
Comment: Solid run-blocker thrives in Pistol offense
8 - Dustin Waldron, Sr., T, Portland State
Comment: Has made 24 consecutive starts for Vikings.
9 - Jon Opperud, Sr., T, Montana
Comment: Healthy again; aims to regain ‘09 form.
10 - Nate Doverspike, Sr., T, Sacramento State
Comment: O-line anchor of a high-powered offense.
It seems like J.C. Oram has been opening holes at Weber State forever, and it’s no wonder. Oram has played in 36 games in his career, making 32 starts. The 6-foot-4, 300 pounder is the only returning lineman in the Big Sky that was named an All-American last season. There’s no reason to believe Oram won’t be even better this year
A two-time All-Big Sky pick, Chris Powers played a huge role in Eastern Washington RB Taiwan Jones becoming the best running back in the league in the previous two seasons. Powers, now the top center in the Big Sky, did it all during the Eagles’ run to the national title in 2010.
Record-setting quarterback Cameron Higgins had a big safety net in left tackle Caleb Turner. Turner protected Higgins for two seasons, allowing the QB to set the Big Sky’s all-time record for touchdown passes (98).
Gabe Jackson (along with Powers) was one of eight Eastern Washington players named to the preseason All-Big Sky squad for 2011. The Eagles’ left tackle, Jackson makes sure QB Bo Levi Mitchell stays upright, which he did during the team’s second-half comeback to beat Delaware for the national championship.
Named a captain at Montana State for 2011, Alex Terrien has made 24 starts so far in his career. Terrien will again be a very important player – not to mention one of the league’s top centers – snapping the ball to QB DeNarius McGhee while the Bobcats gun for a repeat of their Big Sky championship.
Alex Mott earned the respect of the media and was named one of five offensive linemen on the Big Sky’s preseason all-conference team. Mott started all 11 games at left guard for NAU last season. … A 310-pound center, Adam Kleffner helped Portland State lead the Big Sky in rushing last season. Kleffner’s improvement has been evident since the arrival of coach Nigel Burton. … Dustin Waldron also plays a huge role up front for Portland State. The left tackle is the Vikings most experienced guy, and is a bona fide team leader. … 2009 was a big year for Jon Opperud. But Opperud was moved to tackle when coach Robin Pflugrad took over as coach at Montana. Opperud missed three games due to injury, but is in line for another solid year. … Sacramento State had a renaissance last season, winning six games. Right tackle Nate Doverspike has been a big factor while making 22 consecutive starts.
NOTE: This is the fifth installment of a nine-part series in which we project the Top 10 players at each position in advance of the 2011 Big Sky Conference football season – summer transfers be damned!