Football Preview: Offensive Linemen
HANOVER, Ind. – Today we will take a deeper look at the offensive linemen as we continue our preview series of the Hanover football team leading up to the 2017 opener Sept. 2.
In the weeks leading up to the season opener against Centre (Ky.), we will take an in-depth look at each position group, mainly focusing on the key returners. Check out the previous position releases below.
Hanover is coming off a 4-6 season in 2016, including a 4-4 mark in Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference play, its first conference winning percentage of .500 or better since 2013. The Panthers were recently picked by the conference coaches to finish fifth in the HCAC this season after tying for fourth in 2016.
“The offensive line will be anchored by senior tackle Jacob Sofronko (Ridgeville, Ind.),” stated co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Matt Brown. “Sofronko is entering his third season as a starter for us, making 20 starts in his career, including stops at right tackle and left guard.”
The incoming senior earned his first Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference honor after the 2016 season, as he was named to the second team all-HCAC.
Junior Brandon Merrick (Mount Vernon, Ind.) made seven starts last year, as he is also entering his third season atop the depth chart. Merrick made six starts at right guard, while also starting one game at left tackle in 2016.
At the center position, the Panthers will have the luxury of returning junior Eli Smith (Indianapolis, Ind.). Smith started all 10 games for the Blue and Red last year.
“Payton Fergus (Newburgh, Ind.) and Dylon Neff (Moores Hill, Ind.) will both be in the mix for a starting position this fall. Payton made three starts for us in 2016, while Dylon earned time in the rotation at left guard. Kyle Conrad (Georgetown, Ohio) missed all of the 2016 season with an injury but he’ll also battle for a starting spot after making a number of appearances as a freshman in 2015.”
“We have a number of other guys returning as well, plus a strong group of freshmen coming in that will look to battle for spots in the trenches this season,” added Brown.
After averaging just over 88 yards per game on the ground in 2015, the Panthers returned to the triple digits in 2016, behind its offensive line, chewing up close to 105 yards per contest. Hanover had a pair of 200-plus yard games on the ground last fall, while adding 17 rushing touchdowns for the third time in four seasons.
The offensive line’s pass protection over the final four games of the season came together, as the unit allowed just nine total sacks. With the strong protection, Hanover was able to average over 315 yards per game, in the air, over the final month of the season.
Hanover and Centre are slated for a 1:30 p.m. kickoff Sept. 2. The Panthers will be hosting Football Alumni and Community Day during the opener as well.
Contact: Tyler Jester