This is the second of an eight part series previewing each position group heading into spring practice. The series, featuring quotes from an exclusive interview with head coach Bill Cubit, will run with two articles per day until Thursday, and WMU's practice begins Friday, March 16th. This article is provided as premium content for our valued subscribers.
Western Michigan fans will remember the offensive line from 2012 as a unit that struggled at times and perhaps even held the team back in certain games. However, injuries early in the season and throughout were killer for the position, and heading into the spring there are many more healthy bodies for the staff to use and evaluate for 2012.
The main loss on the line from last season was four year starter Anthony Parker, whose steady presence at left tackle will certainly be missed. The rest of the line, however, comes back intact, and will be joined by many more healthy players to bolster the overall depth and talent.
The left tackle position vacated by Parker is likely to be filled by junior Terry Davisson, who played a number of positions last season by necessity. Davisson, from Rensselaer, Ind., could solidify the position, bringing stability with his experience, but he may have competition in spring practice from Willie Beavers, a 6'6", 296 pound redshirt freshman who signed with Illinois out of high school but asked for a release after learning that the Illini planned to greyshirt him.
"We'll move Davisson out [to left guard], and I think it's going to be a battle between him and Beavers," head coach Bill Cubit said. "I think Beavers is really a talented guy, and what you want is competition, I think those guys will battle really well."
The left guard position is held down by the Samoan, Kasimili Uitalia, a 6'2", 292 pound senior junior college transfer. Uitalia started all thirteen games last season and coach Cubit raves about his abilities, expecting him to be a mainstay at the left guard position this season.
"'Milli' is really a good player. I think in all games, he played really well, and he's really a good athlete," Cubit said.
6'3", 300 pound Kevin Galeher will hope to stay healthy this season and hold down the center spot. Last season, following Galeher's broken foot, multiple players stepped in at center including Davisson and Jon Hoffing, but Galeher really solidified the position after coming back for the Bowling Green game, showing much more consistency in both shotgun snaps and blocking.
Right guard will be up for grabs when spring practice opens, as incumbent Deon Cammock and redshirt freshman Jimmy Kristof will have a shot at the job, according to Cubit. Cammock is a massive 6'6", 342 pound junior from ASA Junior College in Washington, D.C., and got extensive playing time in six games last year before being injured. Kristof redshirted in 2011, though he almost was called into service against Connecticut with the line shorthanded. Cubit has high hopes for the 6'4", 296 pound guard from Lake Barrington, Ill., and he will be given a shot to earn plenty of playing time in the spring.
"Right guard I think will be a battle," Cubit said. "Cammock, before he got hurt, was playing at a pretty good level. Jimmy Kristof, who got redshirted, has got a lot of talent, so he might get into a position to play.
Right tackle is perhaps the most solidified position on the line, as 6'8", 307 pound Dann O'Neill will hold down the position. O'Neill was a consistent contributor last season, starting every game and earning third team All-MAC honors. A former Michigan signee who Rivals.com ranked as the 49th best player nationally, O'Neill transferred to WMU following his freshman year and will look to gain the attention of NFL Draft scouts this fall. First, though, he'll act as somewhat of a mentor for the younger members of the line in the spring.
"I think Dann O'Neill will be one of the best linemen in the conference. I'm really excited about him," Cubit said.
A host of other players will add depth for the line, which is a welcome change from last year for WMU. Junior Josh Hadel appeared in eight games last season, and will provide backup at all positions. Greg Peterson, also a junior, will be healthy in the spring after a frustrating 2011 in which he only played in two games, and should get extensive playing time in a utility role. Tim Maka and Ben Samson both have previous game experience, and should continue to help provide depth.
While WMU didn't sign a ton of linemen in the class of 2013, they will be joined by 6'6", 275 pound Taylor Moton of Okemos, Mich., in the fall. In the spring, however, huge early enrollee Ben Davisson will join the Broncos. Davisson is the brother of the aforementioned Terry Davisson, and towers at 6'9", drawing rave reviews from coach Cubit along with Moton.
"We have a couple young kids who'll be redshirted. They run pretty well, especially for their size," Cubit said. "Davisson's 345 pounds, a 6-foot-9 guy, and he runs pretty well."
Overall, Cubit is excited about the potential of this year's offensive line, which is a weight off his back compared to last year's situation.
"I think this is going to be a great spring for us," Cubit said. "Last year, it was almost like survival mode. You get to a practice and you only have seven guys healthy.. This year, I know it'll be a lot better."
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