This is part of The Sun’s position-by-position preview of the 2017 Cornell football team. For a preview of each position, click here.
No position on the 2017 Cornell football team was cratered more due to graduation than the offensive line. A whopping six linemen graduated, leaving two seniors and just one returning starter to the line for the upcoming season.
“This is a huge question mark,” head coach David Archer ’05 said about his first line of protection on offense, adding “this is probably very similar” to the battles that will ensue at wide receiver as well.
Henry Stillwell, a junior at right tackle, will look to impart his wisdom to a line made up of almost entirely fresh faces after 10 games played last season alongside former starters Alex Emanuels ’17, John Foster ’17, Jake Waltman ’17 and Islam Mohamed ’17.
But apart from Stillwell, starters for the offensive line are still not set. Archer pointed to J. Edward Keating as someone with the potential to slot in at center, but the coach acknowledged the lack of experience he has at the position and said it would take some time to determine who lines up on game day.
“[It’s] wait and see on the starting lineup there,” he said, “but all very talented guys — just not a ton of game experience.”
2016 was a difficult year for the offensive line nonetheless. Despite the emergence of running back Chris Walker, the team finished last in the Ivy League in rushing offense with just 113 yards per game. Opposing defenses also got to quarterback Dalton Banks for 24 sacks totaling a loss of 149 yards.
A young offensive line could be a thorn in the side of a team side which boasts budding stars at both the quarterback and running back positions. Without much protection for gunslinger Banks and the quick Walker, offensive production could potentially stymie, but a new coach will look to minimize that possibility.
John Kuceyeski has taken over coaching duties of the offensive line after a stint with the running backs last year. Despite Kuceyeski’s small stature, Archer has noticed an impact from the new coach on the team’s biggest members.
“He’s done a really good job,” Archer said of Kuceyeski. “He’s the son of a coach, he has a great bond with those guys. It’s funny because they are all like 6-foot-8 and he’s a little bit shorter and it’s just funny in practice.”
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