Football: It All Starts Where? When?
Austin is just one we have to replace...
Austin is just one we have to replace...

Posted Feb 3, 2003


Last year at this time, the Northwestern Offensive Line was considered the one place where the team was solid. With 2 returning potential All Conference out of 5, the Cats looked overpowering up front.

Now the team faces the Big 10 without Austin King and Jeff Roehl. Considering everyone with experience in the trenches, Purple Reign takes a look at the NU Front 6 for 2003.


If you play football for the Seaford Cardinals, you know all about Coach Roy's Rules...
And the first rule is:

It all Starts on the Offensive Line

I first heard this rule on the NU Practice Field when David went to the NU Football Camp, its one of the true truths in football.As long as the Center is the first guy to touch the ball, well, you know...

This rule also applies when you go out and analyze a team. You can have a great QB or running back but if the guys up front aren't there every play, nothing good happens, and this is the year that NU loses two of the top linemen in the Big 10; Center Austin King, and Guard Jeff Roehl.

NU is also losing Right Tackle Derek Martinez, and Tight End Eric Worley graduation and injury. Martinez had started the first 4 games this year, but a recurring back injury forced him to the sidelines. Worley started 2 games at tight end, but was regularly rotated in and marked the return of Coach Walker's use of the TE at Navy. He had 12 catches and a TD this past year. He was listed on the Season Ending depth chart as the starter out on the end of the line.

So Here is the End of Season Offensive Line depth chart as reported by NU Sports:
Tight End
Left Tackle
Left
Guard
Center
Right Guard
Right Tackle
Eric Worley
Trai Essex
[6-4 280]
Matt Ulrich
[6-2 305]
Austin King
Jeff Roehl
Zach Strief
[6-7 335]
Joe Wohlscheid
[6-7 280]
Zach
Strief
[6-7 335]
Bill Newton
[6-7 310]
Carl Matejka
[6-4 315]
Carl Matejka
[6-4 315]
Vince Clarke
[6-5 300]

Next year Matejka will be a Redshirt Senior; Essex is a true Junior, Newton and Ulrich will be Redshirt Juniors; and Clarke, and Streif will be Redshirt Sophomores.
So how do we propose to replace the three men in italics?
If you base it on moving up the backups, you use Matejka at Center, move Bill Newton to Right Guard and continue to use both Wohlscheid and Taylor Jones at Tight End. Matejka has been taking snaps at center, but I've been told that he's considered a natural Guard by the coaches and started 5 games at right guard after Martinez reinjured his back last fall. 

That would make the starting line look like this:

Tight End
Left Tackle
Left
Guard
Center
Right Guard
Right Tackle
Joe Wohlscheid
[6-7 280]
Trai
Essex
[6-4 280]
Matt Ulrich
[6-2 305]
Carl Matejka
[6-4 315]
Bill
Newton
[6-7 310]
Zach
Strief
[6-7 335]
That's a pretty big offensive line - if you expect Essex to get bigger in the off season, the group is actually larger than the starting line last year.

But as you work up the depth chart for 2003, you also have to consider the other four Redshirt Juniors:  Donnie Baskin [6-2 295],  Scott Crohn [6-0 270], Steve Natali [6-4 285], and  Ikechuku Ndukwe [6-5 325].
Of these four, Ike Ndukewe regularly appeared on the depth chart early last season as the backup left guard. He seems to get injured which limits his playing time, but if healthy, you'd have to consider him a prime candidate to challenge for a Guard position.
Then we have the Sophomores/Redshirt Freshmen: Ron Bardwell [6-3 310],  Jeff Conroy [6-7 320], Jim Devine [6-2 280], Rick McDole [6-6 320], 

Related Stories
NU Sports News Digest for Thursday 1/30
 -by PurpleWildcats.com  Jan 30, 2003
O-Line Commitment - Fred McConnell
 -by PurpleWildcats.com  Jan 29, 2003
Top 200 Draft Prospects For 2003
 -by ScoutNFLNetwork.com  Feb 6, 2003

MAGAZINE COVERAGE
Get the 2014 Scout.com Recruiting Yearbook with an annual Total Access Pass
Sign Up Today!

Upgrade Now!
Free Email Newsletter
Don't miss any news or features from PurpleWildcats.com. Subscribe to our newsletter to have our newest articles emailed to you on a daily or weekly basis.
Click here for a list of all Team Newsletters.