Paving the way: Offensive line looks to be a unit of strength in 2018

Published 7:18 pm Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The Troy Trojans enter the 2018 season with a new look offense. The Trojans said goodbye to quarterback Brandon Silvers, both of the running backs and wide receiver Emmanuel Thompson among others. One unit that remains a strength may be the offensive line.

The Trojans return most of their starting offensive line in Kirk Kelley, Deontae Crumitie, Tristan Crowder and J.L. Gaston.

“We have four guys that have played a lot of football,” said head coach Neal Brown. “We have a starting center that is a four-year starter; it’s going to be his third year starting at center. Both guards are probably two of our most talented guys on the team in Kirk Kelley and Tristan Crowder. J.L Gaston started every game for us last year.”

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Redshirt freshman Austin Stidham is the favorite to become the starting left tackle in the opener against Boise State on September 1.

“I am pleased with his progression,” Brown said. “During the summer time he added some weight and he has added some strength. He is a technician, which is really important.”

The Trojans will begin the season with depth as Bubba Hudson, Zach Branner, Dylan Bradshaw and Hamilton Hawthorne are waiting in the wings in case something happens to any of the four starters.

“For the first time really in our tenure here we have real depth on the offensive line,” Brown said. “We can play probably play anywhere between eight or nine guys up front.”

Crumitie, after beginning his career at right guard, made the transition to center and started every game at the position as a sophomore.

He was a key starter on an offensive line that led the country with just eight sacks allowed on the season.

In advance of his senior season, Crumitie was named to both the Rimington Trophy and Outland Trophy Watch Lists. If there is one area of his game that offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Matt Moore would like to see cleaned up it would be snapping the football.

“The biggest thing with Crumitie right now is being consistent with his snaps,” Moore said. “Last year, Silvers was a magician sometimes at catching those snaps. I was telling him this year that you need to throw strikes every time back there. That is the next step.”

Crumitie has watched a lot of tape to work on his snaps.

“I have been working on my snapping a lot more,” Crumitie said. “Preparation, watching a lot of film is one big thing that helps.”

Despite all of the success a season ago, Crumitie believes that his unit can be even better this season with another year under their belt.

“We can be really good,” Crumitie said. “We take each other’s criticisms about what we need to work on. I feel like this year we are going to do something.”

The offensive line, and the offense as a whole, struggled against Boise State in the opener a year ago and fell 24-13. This year it’s all about being prepared.

“We have to be prepared,” Crumitie said. “We can’t wait for them to get down here. We are different than last year.”