SOU will rely on veteran 'O' line
ASHLAND — Southern Oregon football coach Steve Helminiak is well aware of the talent lost that was responsible for putting points on the board in 2008.
Gone from the Raider offense of a year ago are the top two receivers, the only two quarterbacks that saw action and an all-independent team running back.
An offensive line that returns five players from a year ago, though, is reason enough to give Helminiak hope that the transition to a new group of skill-position players can be a smooth one.
Among the five, Southern Oregon returns three-year starter Jordan Myers (6-foot-4, 285 pounds) and two-year starter Trent Henson (6-4, 300), each of whom garnered all-independent last season.
"Myers is a very, very tough player and a huge leader for this team," Helminiak said. "He's not the most talented in the group — never has been — but he's quite possibly the best just because of his mentality and how hard he works for us."
Now in his fifth year in the program, Henson will be snapping the ball.
"Trent is the perfect guy to have at center because he can make calls, and he really sees and understands things," Helminiak said. "He's kind of our anchor out there."
Buddy Tuamasaga, a 6-6, 345 pound senior who Helminiak calls a "terrific talent," has started every game on the line since transferring from East Los Angeles Junior College before last season. He's joined by guards Zach Urrutia (6-2, 310) and Derek Short (6-5, 275), who started as redshirt freshmen a year ago.
John Roy (6-3, 275), a transfer from Oregon State, also looks to be a contributor on the offensive line.
"Since we've been here before, we feel a responsibility to lead practice and set the tempo to get people ready to go, and I think we're doing a very good job," said Myers. "There are quite a few young guys still learning the offense, and you can see they have a lot of things going through their heads right now. We can help because we've been there before and know how it goes."
Myers isn't the only one impressed by the leadership provided by the line so far.
"They know when to get on a guy, and they know when someone needs a pick-me-up," Helminiak said. "As a coach, that's exactly what you want and love to see as guys grow in the program."
While he knows there is still a long way to go before the offense is where it needs to be by the end of the month, Myers says he's been impressed by a group of young receivers led by junior Vance Beach, and the athleticism that former North Medford standout Ben Running — who started the spring game — provides at quarterback.
The experience of the offensive line will also help improve a ground game that averaged only 3.3 yards per carry a year ago.
"We just want them to allow the skill guys to do what they do and get a chance to show just how effective they can be," Helminiak said. "They'll lead with their play. If you have a line that can grind it out, it not only helps the offense but it can pick up the defense, too."