The least publicized unit on any football team is usually the offensive line. At Charleston Southern, the “big uglies” along the front are quietly leading an offense that is putting up bigger numbers each week.
WHO: Charleston Southern (7-0, 1-0 Big South) at Colorado (2-3, 0-3 Pac-12)
WHEN: Saturday, 2 p.m.
WHERE: Folsom Field, Boulder, Colo.
The Bucs’ offensive line had only one starter, junior right guard Clayton Truitt, with significant game experience before this season. Truitt, a third-year starter, will be making his 29th start Saturday when CSU plays at Colorado.
During spring practice, offensive line coach and coordinator Gabe Giardina had six available offensive linemen.
“It wasn’t an ideal situation, to say the least. It was pretty ugly at that point,” said Giardina. “We had to piece it together and get through the spring. We got a few healthy and we had a good group coming in. Now we start a freshman, a redshirt freshman, two sophomores and a junior. And we have four guys redshirting. The potential is definitely there for us.”
Potential has turned into consistent performance over the course of CSU’s first seven games. The offense is averaging 381 total yards per game, with 241 yards coming on the ground. CSU has posted five consecutive games of at least 200 yards rushing and is averaging 458 yards over the last three games.
CSU has a group of talented backs, led by junior Christian Reyes. While Reyes, who is closing in on the school’s single-season rushing record, earns all of his yardage as a tough, physical runner, the development up front has made success on the ground a reality.
“For as little time as they had together on the field, they have been tremendous for us,” said CSU head coach Jamey Chadwell. “We have basically one guy (Truitt) that had a lot of experience. We have a freshman starting at center. We have a guy, Benny Timmons, that came here as a defensive lineman and really has not played a lot during his time here.
“There is no doubt, we would not be where we are right now without their development. Our backs and receivers and quarterbacks get a lot of the publicity, but without those guys up front we would not be 7-0. It’s probably one of the more fascinating stories in our program.”
Truitt is the unquestioned leader of the unit. The offensive line has been through some injuries over the course of a physical season, but the unit continues to perform at a high level.
“It really is next guy up around here,” said Truitt, an all-conference candidate from Stockbridge, Ga. “There is no drop-off when someone goes down and that’s just the mentality we have developed. No one likes to see injuries, but it’s football and they happen. When we lose a guy, we all know that the next guy has to step up and play at a high level.
“We just work our tails off every day. We work together and we help each other. We’re a family within the family and we know we have to be at our best in order for this offense to be successful.”