By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
The offensive line has dominated in quiet fashion
Oline 6 col col
Despite being recruited to block for the triple option — not a passing scheme — Georgia Southern’s offensive line has done an outstanding job this season. The players protecting quarterback Travis Clark have allowed just four sacks on the year, the fewest in all of Division I-AA. - photo by MICHELLE BOAEN/staff
Travis Clark believes he has the best offensive line in the Southern Conference. Statistically he does.
    On 224 passing attempts the Georgia Southern quarterback has been sacked only four times this season. That’s good enough to rank him as the best protected quarterback in Division I-AA. No team has allowed fewer sacks.
    So, why does he stay sore from Sunday until Thursday from the pounding he takes on Saturday? Because, he gets hit a lot. Obviously, one of the major factors is the NCAA is not as good as protecting the quarterback as the NFL.
    There are times Clark has been hit after delivering a pass that had it occurred in the NFL some heavy fine money would be exchanging hands.
    The fact opposing defenses have trouble getting to him before he throws the ball is impressive to both Clark and Georgia Southern head coach Brian VanGorder.
    “In spring ball when I first looked at those guys I was stunned by how small they were,” said VanGorder. “They’re playing well. They’re well coordinated. Our offensive line coach, Scott Fountain, does a tremendous job with them.
    “It’s a gritty group, a competitive group that’s very well coached,” said VanGorder. "They’re led by (center) Lance Wayne who makes all our calls and makes the difference up front for us.”
    “They work hard every day,” said Clark. “Marcelo (Estrada) is a great guy. Ricory (Green) is doing an unbelievable job, and so is Brad (Williams). Everyone knows about Lance and Russell Orr is playing with a bad knee and still doing a great job.
    “For them to go from option blocking to pass blocking the way they have is a testament to their work habits and competitiveness and Coach Fountain,” said Clark. “They’re the first guys out here and the last to walk off the field with me.”
    Central Connecticut got to Clark once in the opener. North Dakota State, which has one of the most outstanding defenses in the country, had only one sack. Western Carolina and The Citadel are the only Southern Conference teams to reach Clark.
    To the layman the Eagle front five are big guys, but in VanGorder’s offense Orr (6-foot-3, 272), for example, is an undersized tackle. In the now-discarded triple option, 255-pound tackles were not unusual.
    The new prototype is Williams at left tackle. A transfer from Central Florida he is 6-foot-5 and weighs 290 pounds. From a size standpoint this is the type lineman VanGorder is looking to recruit.
    An all-state tackle at Vidalia, his college choice came down to Central Florida and Georgia Southern and he chose to go for the glamour of I-A football. Southern’s hiring of VanGorder and no playing time at UCF made Statesboro attractive.
    “I came in in the summer,” he said. “When they hired Coach VanGorder and changed the offense it made it a situation better suited for the type player I am.
    “I couldn’t be happier,” said Williams. “I’m 45 minutes from home which means I can go see my family and friends, I’m playing and it’s easy for them to get down here to see me play. You don’t know how important that is until you leave home.”
    Clark is glad Williams is on his side. The left tackle is the quarterback’s best friend as he covers his blindside. When he blows a block it means the quarterback is often going to be the recipient of a vicious hit.
    “Brad has been playing great,” said Clark. “You have to be able to trust your offensive line, and it makes it a lot easier to stay in there until the last moment before throwing the ball when you know you’ve got your back side covered.”
    Williams, because he played little in his three years at UCF, is still a work in progress, but like a lot of the other inexperienced Eagles he is making immeasurable strides forward.
     “Brad has done a really good job,” said VanGorder. “He’s more of that profile that you look at and talk about in terms of what we want here with offensive linemen. He’s longer armed, very bright and has fit in very well. He’s been outstanding for us all year.”  
     “I give the credit for the low number of sacks to Coach Fountain and Travis,” said Williams. “Coach has been talking to us about this since summer. When we allow a sack we have to run five gassers. Travis is great at seeing the blitz, and he’s able to get out of the pocket and get the ball off. He’s going to get better and be a very good quarterback.
     “Georgia Southern is home to me now,” said Williams. “All the other players accepted me from day one. This is a place I’ll come back to when I’m finished playing.”