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Following MAC Championship, youthful Falcons emphasize physicality

The Falcon football team finished the 2013 season with a Mid-American Conference championship victory and a Little Caesar’s Pizza bowl invite, but the offensive line did not feature similar success.

BG finished next to last in the Mid-American Conference in sacks allowed with 41, ultimately placing the Falcons in a tie at 119th out of 126 Division-I FBS football schools in the category.

The Falcons then lost two senior captains, guard Dominic Flewellyn and center David “Chief” Kekuewa.

However, it wasn’t entirely negative for the Falcons.

Bowling Green featured the schools single-season leading rusher, and offense that scored nearly 35 points per game.

First-year head coach Dino Babers has come in and emphasized the importance of the offensive line and their role in making the prolific “FalconFast” offense work effectively.

Some of the changes across the line to make the offense work include the physical style of play the unit has featured.

“It’s a completely different offense and our focus has changed to being more physical,” redshirt sophomore tackle Logan Dietz said. “We’re pushing guys around now instead of trying to create gaps.”

However, with no seniors on the starting line, the Falcons will look to redshirt junior Alex Huettel for leadership across the unit.

“Huettel is definitely one of the leaders up front,” Babers said. “He’s one of the strongest cats I’ve got and he’s on all of the award lists.”

Huettel himself recognizes his new role as a leader upfront, and has embraced the responsibility.

“My role as a leader has been to make sure we’re all on the same page, make sure we’re doing the right things and make sure no one feels left out,” Huettel said. “We’ve all come together really well during camp, so there’s many leaders in all different ways.”

While the Falcons have plenty of youth upfront, the line has continued to grow through practices and scrimmages in preparation for the 2014 season.

“As a unit, we’ve progressed so much,” Huettel said. “The first day I don’t know if there was an offensive lineman who thought we were going to make it through, but now we’re in shape and finally getting our legs back. Everything the coaches have been saying is all showing up.”

The offensive line has grown over the spring and summer, but they still have work to do to get where they would like to be.

The starting center position has been a battle throughout camp and it is one that has yet to be resolved.

“The center position is a really close battle and could go either way,” Heuttel said. “Everyone on the team would be comfortable with either Tim [McAuliffe] or J.J. [Beggan].”

Whether it be technique, fundamentals or other minute details, the Falcons are working hard at them every day.

“Where this offensive line is right now may not be where it’s going to be when we start the MAC title race, and it need not be there. It needs to be a lot better,” Babers said. “I think they’re ready for the challenge and I know that coach Mattox is going to be with them every step of the way to make sure they get there.”

The players understand too, that their growth has been, and will continue to be a process throughout the season, but they are motivated by the opportunity to protect for the fast offense that the Falcons plan to feature.

“It’s motivation for us to get set, get down and move the [defensive] line past the line of scrimmage and dominate upfront,” Huettel said.

The Falcons know that their hard work will eventually pay off, even if they aren’t perfect for the season opener.

“We’re not where we need to be, but we’re getting there,” Dietz said. “Keep doing what we’re doing and we’ll be ready.”

BG is finished with their summer scrimmages, so their next game situation will come in the season opener at Western Kentucky University.

“There’s no more banging and hitting each other,” Babers said. “The next time we hit like this we’ll be hitting against Western Kentucky and that’ll be okay with us.”

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