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2011 Iowa State Spring Football Outlook: Offensive Line

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AMES, Iowa - Paul Rhoads thinks the offensive line has the potential to be his team's biggest strength in 2011. Three veterans with starting experience return. Kelechi Osemele, a second-team all-Big 12 selection as a sophomore, earned honorable mention honors last season. Osemele, who seems ticketed for an NFL camp after the coming campaign, has started 30 straight games and his intensity on the field is well-documented. Carter Bykowski is a former tight end with the size and athleticism to see extended playing time.

The battle at left guard will be a competition among the youth that will form the future of Rhoads' front line. Ethan Tuftee's six games played make him the most experienced contender at the position. Shaban Dika caught the eye of Rhoads during his redshirt season. Redshirt freshman Ben Loth, like his teammates Tuftee and Dika, has big-time size that will serve him well as he gains experience.

The key position of center is a high priority on any offensive line and Rhoads feels he has the horses to overcome the loss of 2010 starter Ben Lamaak. Tom Farniok affirmed the Cyclone coaching staff's vision for his future during his redshirt season. Sam Tautolo is a proven man under center who demonstrated his skills as a junior college standout. Oklahoman Bob Graham is also coming out of redshirt and adds to the line's depth.

Right guard Hayworth Hicks started every game last season and begins his senior campaign next to center. Junior college transfer Jon Caspers redshirted the 2010 campaign and is ready to play.

The Cyclones' third returning starter is right tackle Brayden Burris. The junior was good enough to play as a freshman and started 11 games last season. He returns but has company in Kyle Litchtenberg, who is sure to play this season after seeing action in every 2010 contest. Zack Spears will also compete for playing time.

I think the offensive line, even with the loss of two starters can be a strength of our football team, certainly our offensive football team strength. For the second year in a row I think we'll put an offensive center in a pro camp in Ben Lamaak whether he gets drafted or ends up as a free agent. And Alex Alvarez was just a very solid player for us, certainly a guy you could always count on.

"This will be our deepest offensive line. Kyle Litchtenberg might be a guy that moves from tackle to guard to add to our guard depth. Shaban Dika comes off a redshirt season and has quickly developed into a guy that's 295-300 pounds who can challenge right there. We've got both our starting tackles back and then you've got Carter Bykowski who moved from tight end a year ago. I had a conversation with our offensive line coach Bill Bleil the other day about playing seven, eight guys over the course of the game.

"You rarely see significant substitutions during a game in the offensive line but I think we'll be in a position this year to stay fresh throughout the course of games. I think we could roll three tackles. I think we could roll three guards and then with the addition of Tom Farniok coming off a redshirt season at center we'll just see who emerges as our leading candidate there."

Pre-Spring Offensive Line Chart

Left Tackle
72 ***Kelechi Osemele, 6-6, 354, Sr.#
71 **Carter Bykowski, 6-7, 298, Jr.#

Left Guard
64 Ethan Tuftee, 6-4, 310, So.#
73 Shaban Dika, 6-5, 298, Fr.#
56 Ben Loth, 6-5, 309, Fr.#

74 Tom Farniok, 6-3, 270, Fr.#
67 Sam Tautolo, 6-3, 303, Jr.
78 Bob Graham, 6-5, 276, Fr.#

Right Guard
75 **Hayworth Hicks, 6-3, 332, Sr.#
57 Jon Caspers, 6-5, 283, Jr.#

Right Tackle
79 *Brayden Burris, 6-6, 276, Jr.
69 *Kyle Lichtenberg, 6-6, 275, So.#
76 Zack Spears, 6-5, 307, Sr.

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