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WGH’s veteran line set for year

August 25, 2013
By JOE SIMON - Tribune Chronicle (jsimon@tribtoday.com) , Underthelights

WARREN - As Warren G. Harding coach Steve Arnold described the position, he used words like "athletic," "good feet" and talked about how most of the players can "get to the second level well."

Arnold wasn't discussing the running backs or receivers. He was explaining the strengths of what he expects to be a "dominant" offensive line.

"They're relishing the fact that we really talk about physicality, and that this is where we win football games - up front," Arnold said. "If we don't win the battle up front, we're not going to have success, and they really, really take pride in that."

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Kaelyn Campbell

The Raiders return four of five starters from last year, when Harding finished 9-2 and advanced to the playoffs. Three of the linemen are being recruited by Division I colleges - including 6-foot-4, 265-pound junior center James Daniels, who's garnering looks from several Big Ten universities. Senior tackles Kaelyn Campbell (6-3, 250) and Sam Elliott (6-2, 270) are both garnering looks from Mid-American Conference schools. The other returning starter, senior guard Malik Matlock, is no slouch either at 6-1, 260 pounds.

The men in the trenches intend to be catalysts in leading the Raiders to the postseason in back-to-back years for the first time in nine years.

"I believe we can be a great team," Campbell said. "We can do things last year's team couldn't do. We have to step it up and do bigger and better things - not only make the playoffs but make strides in the playoffs and eventually win it all."

Harding will need the line to be at its best in order to get there, and while it took a blow when senior guard Jake Amrein suffered a knee injury last week (he is awaiting results from an MRI), Arnold likes what he sees so far.

The second-year coach said there's a nice blend of size, strength and experience. He said the experience is one of the most important qualities because communication is imperative for an offensive line to be successful. That, coupled with their physical attributes, make the line the strength of the team.

"Some may have good feet, some may be stronger than the other, and that's why I think the strengths and weaknesses of each player complement each other very well," he said. "I think they can be dominant. And if you can control the game with your offensive line, you're going to have success as a team."

Daniels will be the orchestrator in the trenches. The center must make all the calls and relay them to the rest of the line and the quarterback. Once that's done is when the heavy lifting begins, and that's where Daniels really excels. Aside from being deceptively athletic for his size, Daniels possesses skills many other lineman don't, which is why elite universities are calling him on a regular basis.

"What a lot of college coaches say when watching film on James is that to be as big as he is, he really gets to the second level well," Arnold said. "Sometimes at the high school level, you make that initial contact, and you're pretty much there, you're stationary. James can make that initial block and then move to the second level and get another block. And that's what the scouts really liked about James."

Daniels, whose father played offensive line at the Ohio State University, said he isn't worried about college right now. He's having too much fun being part of a group that has created an invaluable chemistry.

"We have a strong bond together," he said. "That's extremely important because the offensive and defensive lines, those pretty much get the game started and those are where games are won. Those five offensive linemen are like a glove, and all five of the offensive linemen have to be together like five fingers in a glove."

That continuity could lead to another big year for quarterback Lamar Carmichael, who didn't throw an interception in 128 attempts last year, or a breakout season for running back John Coleman, who scored 11 TDs in 2012 despite playing in the shadow of James' brother, LeShun Daniels.

Either way, Harding's success starts up front, and Arnold said everyone knows it

"That's where you win or lose games," he said. "There's no question about it."

 
 

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