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Offensive line has overcome turnover, inexperience to anchor Johns Hopkins football

Johns Hopkins head football coach Jim Margraff on the sideline during the 2013 season.
Johns Hopkins head football coach Jim Margraff on the sideline during the 2013 season. (Kim Hairston / Baltimore Sun)

Heading into the season, a young and inexperienced offensive line loomed as the biggest question mark for Johns Hopkins. After five games, that unit has become a strength.

The offensive line has helped the No. 9 Blue Jays (5-0 overall and 4-0 in the Centennial Conference) rank 27th in Division III in points (40.0 per game), 35th in yards (460.8) and fifth in third-down conversions (52.6 percent).

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Those numbers are not that far off from last year's totals of 40.5 points and 500.6 yards per game and 52.0 third-down percentage, which is somewhat shocking considering that the offensive line graduated four starters. But coach Jim Margraff said he is not surprised by the unit's performance thus far.

"I've been pleased with their play," he said Wednesday. "I spent a little extra time with the offensive line as well as our offensive line coach Nick Schloeder. It was a group that had big shoes to fill, and I think they knew everyone was looking at them. They had a great spring and a very good summer. Right now, they're playing at a fairly high level.

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"I think they're guys who come out and try to prove themselves each day. We're playing about eight to nine guys regularly. So there's still an internal competition, which I think is breeding a fairly high level of play right now."

Senior left tackle Kyle Flynn, junior left guard Fernando Concepcion, senior center Martin Scheuring, junior right guard Colin Egan and junior right tackle Rowan Cade have started every game so far. But junior left tackle Baxter DeBruyn, sophomore left guard Blake LaDouceur, sophomore center Chantz Anderson, and senior right guard Zach Lorenz have rotated in as Johns Hopkins has tried to develop the unit's depth.

"The young guys have played very, very well, and the seniors have earned the right to be on the field a little bit," Margraff said. "We started the first game with similar rotations and it seemed to work. The guys have taken to it very well. And if we went with just the starting lineup, we'd be in the same position next year that we were in this year. I think the nice thing for next year is, we'll have a number of guys coming back with a lot of experience."

The offensive line might have been motivated by discussion of the unit's vulnerability after the graduation of left tackle Vinny Bonaddio, left guard Kevin Quinn, center Ben Cranston and right tackle Armand Jenifer. But Margraff said the players who succeeded them also viewed it as an honor.

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"Our guys have great respect for the four guys who graduated last year," he said. "They were outstanding players, and we've always said that might be the best offensive line we've had here – ever if not in the last 20-something years.

"But with that, those guys have put their time in. We've talked to them about investing their time, not just spending their time. And these guys have invested their time over the last two or three years. It's their turn, and they've played very well."

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