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Position preview: Offensive line is key cog in UT's high-powered offense

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The University of Toledo loses its bookend tackles in Elijah Nkansah and Brant Weiss and a talented center/guard in Nate Jeppesen from last year’s offensive line.

Along with those three starters from last season, Toledo has a few players still on the mend from injuries suffered last season in Yazeed Atariwa and Chandler Cotterman.

The good news for the Rockets is that they have recruited and developed players well at the position, so there are plenty of options to mix and match.

“We have a lot of guys that are back,” UT coach Jason Candle said. “We had some guys who gained some valuable experience for us last year due to some unfortunate injuries. The positive of that is as you turn the page to this year, there is some experience there. The hope is to get eight or nine guys developed so you can have a fluid rotation and keep guys fresh and maybe you can avoid some of the bumps and bruises.”

UT POSITION PREVIEWS: QB  | RB | WR/TE

Graduated

Elijah Nkansah

Brant Weiss

Nate Jeppesen

Returning players

78 Yazeed Atariwa (6-4, 315, Sr.) – Started at guard first four games before season-ending injury.

67 Sami Kassem (6-4, 320, Sr.) – Started nine games at left guard

72 Bryce Harris (6-3, 285, Jr.) – started 11 games (six at right guard, four at center, and one at left guard).

56 Chandler Cotterman (6-3, 296, Jr.) – Played three games at right guard before season-ending injury.

57 Brandon Heidecker (6-6, 312, Jr.) – Played five games at guard before season-ending injury

58 Cameron Bell (6-8, 345, Jr.) – Played 11 games as backup tackle

65 Luke Doerger (6-3, 285, So.) – Played five games as a reserve

Newcomers/Redshirt freshmen

71 Brock Ruble (6-8, 325, Sr.) – Graduate transfer from Florida State

68 Mitchell Berg (6-6, 305, R-Fr.) – Redshirted last season

69 Kedonis Haslem (6-3, 308, R-Fr.) – Redshirted last season

61 Kelvin Ateman (6-6, 315, R-Fr.) – Redshirted last season

63 Woodford Lankford (6-4, 270, R-Fr.) – Redshirted last season

60 Tyler Long (6-4, 295, Fr.) – True freshman

Fall camp needs

Finding a dependable starting five to begin the season will be the focus of camp. Finding the right combinations will be key as the team waits for its injured players to get back to full strength. As Candle mentioned, Toledo wants to develop a strong rotation to rely on throughout the season. With what should be another very good offense, the line will be counted on to aid what should be a strong running game and protect the quarterback so he can get the ball to the team’s playmakers on the outside.

Player to watch

Cameron Bell. Bell saw playing time in 11 games last season at right tackle. With Nkansah and Weiss graduated, Bell would seem to have a big opportunity to solidify himself at one of the tackle positions this season. At 6-foot-8 and 345 pounds, Bell is an imposing figure for defensive linemen to line up against. If he steps up and produces as a regular, that will give a big boost to the offensive line as a unit.

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