September 11th, 2017
Heading into this season, the most obvious strength the Bluejays football team showed was the offensive talent that was returning.
Between junior quarterback Orlando Hernandez, junior receiver Austin McKellar, sophomore receiver Jawan Gaines, and junior tight end Matt Brachmann, the Bluejays had speed, size and experience on their side and the offense was expected to be a dynamic group that could threaten teams all over the field, early and often.
However, after two weekends of football at Langhorst Field, the Bluejays offense has shown its glaring weakness: the offensive line.
Despite returning three starters, including 2016 2nd-team All-CCIW selection Garrett Underwood, the boys up front have forced their quarterback to run around like a lunatic on nearly every pass attempt as he tries to get the ball down field without being maimed in the process.
“However, after two weekends of football at Langhorst Field, the Bluejays offense has shown its glaring weakness: the offensive line.”
With eight sacks on the ledger through two games, the Bluejays are on pace to allow 40 over the course of their schedule (and they have yet to play CCIW bullies Wheaton and North Central).
Without the ability to threaten opposing defenses down field, teams have been able to load up against the run and hold the Bluejays down.
The running game has been a non-factor (and looks even worse if you remove passing plays that have resulted in Hernandez fleeing the comfort of his pocket and racing down field). Averaging 3.3 yard-per-carry, the Bluejays are on pace for their worst season on the ground since 2008.
This prevents play-action attempts from making any meaningful difference in the passing game and allows defenses to dictate and take additional risks, oftentimes leading to turnovers.
A lack of support up front severely limits the creativity of a coaching staff and the Bluejays will not be able to compete like this during conference play.
Something clearly has to change.
In the second half of the Bluejays loss to Olivet, there were fleeting moments of hope and Hernandez was able to get the ball down field to players like Brachmann, McKellar, and even freshman receiver Hasahn Austin.
“A lack of support up front severely limits the creativity of a coaching staff and the Bluejays will not be able to compete like this during conference play.”
While it is unclear exactly what recourse offensive line coach Chris Kirkpatrick has, his group needs to channel whatever it found late in the Olivet game and translate it into a consistent four quarter performance against a weak North Park squad in order to gain the confidence necessary to upset a team like Wheaton at Langhorst in two weeks.
Until they can establish a consistent push up front, all of the Bluejays offensive weapons will be neutralized and the offense will not live up to the potential it has.