Editor's Note: This is the fourth in a series of articles previewing the 2013 football season at Missouri S&T. The daily stories will feature one position, or a set of positions, each weekday until the team reports August 11. Today's story features the Miner offensive line.
One of the keys to the Miners' success in 2012 – a year in which the Miners set a modern day single-season record for points with 458 – was the play of its offensive line.
An experienced and deep group with four senior starters – all of whom earned recognition on the All-Great Lakes Valley Conference team - allowed for S&T to have one of its most productive seasons of all-time on that side of the ball.
But as the 2013 pre-season camp nears, only one starter is back from that unit in junior left tackle Forrestal Hickman (Holton, Kan./Holton HS), a second-team All-GLVC performer last year. A two-year starter at S&T, Hickman is being counted on to help guide an otherwise young group to meld by the start of the season.
"Forrestal is a big player with very good feet. He definitely looks the part and the experience he has gained will be very beneficial to our line and how it develops during the year," said Missouri S&T head coach Tyler Fenwick.
While the offensive line will have a fair amount of youth as a part of it, it is not an inexperienced group by any means.
Hickman figures to handle one of the tackle spots, while the other could be occupied by Mark Parra (Miami, Fla./Palmetto), who saw playing time at right tackle as a redshirt freshman last fall. The center will likely be sophomore Sam Knesel (St. Louis, Mo./St. Louis University HS), who played quite a bit during his first season at S&T and is one Fenwick feels can take on a mentor's role as well.
"For as young as Sam is, he has that leadership mentality," Fenwick said. "He's a tough kid, he's strong and loves the weight room – and as the center, he has to be a leader to make a lot of calls and the players have got to listen to him. Those aspects showed during the spring."
Knesel will be joined on the interior line by seniors Ryan Grigsby (Los Angeles, Calif./Crenshaw), who was injured throughout the 2012 season and Offie Adams (St. Louis, Mo./Hazelwood East), as well as junior Tom Schneider (Bloomfield Hills, Mich./Brother Rice HS), sophomores Delancey Rougely (Waynesville, Mo./Waynesville HS) and Vince Fricke (St. Charles, Ill./St. Charles North HS) and redshirt freshmen Derek Spurgeon (Rolla, Mo./Rolla) and Marcellus Corbin (Independence, Mo./Truman).
Page 2 of 2 - "As the season goes on and as we go through camp, those guys will start working together and I believe the chemistry will get better," Fenwick said. As a result, it is an offensive line that will get better over time. We just have to overcome the inexperience we have there at the moment."
The Miners also added a number of talented offensive linemen in their recruiting class, headed by St. Louis-area natives Adam Echele (Wildwood, Mo./Lafayette), Nick Wunderli (St. Louis, Mo./DeSmet Jesuit) and Joe Mersinger (Troy, Ill./Triad). In addition, S&T added fellow offensive linemen Paul Runyan (Valparaiso, Ind./Valparaiso), Drake Randall (Vernon Hills, Ill./Vernon Hills), Aaron Fritts (Butler, Mo./Butler HS) and Matthew Caldwell (Columbia, Mo./Rock Bridge) in the recruiting class and transfer Aaron Bubb (Lincoln, Neb./Lincoln Southeast) from Missouri Western who will also challenge for spots on the line during their first season at S&T.