While the running backs and receivers dazzle the crowds at football games gaining yards and scoring touchdowns, a group that is often overlooked on the offense is the set of players on the offensive line.
For Benny LeMay or Aaron McAllister to breakout on runs or quarterback Hasaan Klugh to have enough time to find one of his receivers downfield, the offensive line has keep the opposing defenders at bay.
“It’s really a three to five second wrestling fight. Our job is to come off as fast as we can and as hard as we can and move them. That’s their job too, so basically it’s a big collision every play. Then you get a 30 second break, then it’s back at it again,” Chris Brown said.
Redshirt senior Eugene German is one of the leaders on the offensive line and he is one of few that have started all games this season on the line. Spending this time on the field, German has to follow a routine to ease the pain of his position.
“I go through a lot of tape and ice. Before we go out there, I tape up my fingers, my hands, my wrists. Then I add extra tape on top of my gloves. Then after games, after practice, I put ice on my knees. It hurts, it hurts bad, I’m not going to lie to you,” German said.
Junior Daren Drake moved into the center position for the 2017 season. He described the transition to his new spot as “tough.” Though the task isn’t easy, he appreciates his new spot.
“I’m starting to learn the game from a whole other aspect now. I love to hit coming off the ball, drive somebody and get a pancake if I can. Playing center, the strategy aspect of it and seeing how the defense sets up their play against the offense and making calls, that’s starting to make me really appreciate the game,” Drake said.
Playing on the line involves “constant communication and finishing blocks,” German said.
While there is no section on the stat sheet dedicated for the offensive line and their accomplishments during a game, the coaching staff makes sure the line knows what they achieved during a game. A board sits in the field house with each player’s name along with various stats, including knockdowns, from the game.
“It’s not really on the stat thing, but we have our own stats we keep up with. Every game we’ll keep up with who gets the most knockdowns, that’s how we go about it,” Brown said.
One of the main advantages of playing on the offensive line? You get to hit people. A lot.
“People go through a lot in their days and football is like an outlet to get that out. Like if you’re angry, you have time in practice to go hit people and not get in trouble for it,” Brown said.
German began playing the game of football and on the offensive line at the age of 12. If it wasn’t for the constant contact of his position, German probably would have concluded his career at a young age.
“Honestly, when I first started playing I was about to quit the first week of football. The only reason I kept playing was because I started hitting, and that was because of the offensive line. If I played receiver, tight end, or anything else I probably wouldn’t have had the opportunity to hit as much and that’s what I really love to do,” German said.
With the time the group spends together on the field and in meetings, a unique friendship has formed.
“We’re really a brotherhood, we have a bond. We hold each other accountable, we fight like everyone else, but at the end of the day we know it’s all love. We love to joke around, I would say we have the funniest position group on the team by far. Nobody can compete with us on that. I love them, they’re my brothers, it’s fun to play with them, to be around them every day. I look forward to coming in to meetings and practice with them,” Brown said.
German said, with this being his last season, this offensive line group is what he’s “definitely going to miss the most.” He also credits offensive line coach Greg Adkins for keeping the guys in line.
“Coach Adkins does a good job allowing us to joke around and then focusing us up at the same time. He always keeps that balance in between,” German said.
Adkis’ first season with the team brought change for the oline. Starting with spring practices, the players had to become adjusted to his new coaching style and techniques.
“Everything he has implemented has helped us this year. I would say the biggest thing was just getting acclimated to the new things,” Brown said. “He teaches us so much on and off the field. Taking all that in every day, I really look forward to that and really appreciate that from him.”
With the experience Adkins brings to the table (11 years in the SEC, as well as experience in the NFL and Big 12 Conference) he has packed a lot of knowledge into his players in their time together.
“He really helps us out schematically, maturing us as an offensive line. It feels like we’ve all learned like two to three years just from this one season alone. He really shows us there’s a time to play and a time to be serious,” Drake said.
While this season hasn’t panned out the way that players, coaches or fans would have hoped, the off-season looms, and with the off-season comes a new form of hope for the 49ers.
“We’re going to naturally make the standards higher, that’s how it’s always been since the first class,” Drake said. “We have to hold each other accountable more and push our limits. If we can push our limits in the weight room or when we’re running on the field, it’s going to show during the season.”