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Hold the line

Highly touted Joeckel will face mightiest test to date

Published: Friday, October 19, 2012

Updated: Friday, October 19, 2012 21:10


Tanner Garza - THE BATTALION

Junior left tackle Luke Joeckel and his teamates will be challenged with the task of protecting redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel against a powerful LSU pass rush.

Starting an SEC caliber offensive line requires a quality not many positions in the sport necessitate anymore: experience. The characteristic is a standard among the top lines in the country, one that is shared by Texas A&M.

The focus on recruiting pure talent over the development of players has led many programs to find success in young freshmen. The Aggies stand as a perfect example as prodigies Johnny Manziel and Mike Evans have continued to exceed expectations over the course of this season.

Anchoring A&M’s vaunted offensive line is junior left tackle Luke Joeckel, an intense competitor with a developed sense of maturity. Joeckel, who slid into the starting position as a freshman two seasons ago, stands as the program’s top NFL prospect as a future first-round draft selection.

“Our line is the most experienced part of our team, by far, with five guys that have played in big games and been against great competition,” said head coach Kevin Sumlin. “I think that they continue to improve.”

Lining up against A&M’s five-man front this Saturday will be what many consider the top defensive line in the nation. With stud pass-rushers Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo leading the powerful LSU attack, the Aggies must rely on linemen such as senior center Patrick Lewis, junior tackle Jake Matthews and, of course, Joeckel.

During the first few matchups on A&M’s schedule, many fans and analysts believed the Aggies’ line had been overhyped due to their lackluster production in running the ball.

Offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury has expressed a different view on their early struggles.

“Johnny [Manziel] is a tricky guy to block for, just because of the way he moves around,” Kingsbury said. “[The offensive line] doesn’t just stand around while he runs. They move their feet and get the block. I think to go from how they blocked last year to this year and the effort they’ve shown is something that pops.”

Considering the forced transition from a pocket-passer in Ryan Tannehill to the mobility and creativity of Manziel, the offensive line has developed new blocking schemes and protection efficiently.

Allowing just 12 sacks on the season along with helping the team average 124 yards per game on the ground, Joeckel and offensive line have seemingly found their groove, a fact that should serve to instill confidence entering Saturday’s matchup.

“I try to take every week the exact same, [but] I’m jacked up for this week,” Joeckel said. “We know what kind of players we’re going to be up against. They have a good defensive line.”

During the July SEC media days less than one month following the Aggies official juncture with their new conference, the junior tackle was questioned on what he thought would allow him to block the league’s stellar defensive lines.

Joeckel’s response: “I’ve blocked Von Miller.”

The simplicity and devilish confidence backed by the statement is the same that surrounds the offensive line entering the hyped LSU game. The “Maroon Goons,” a nickname created by the line’s most senior member, Lewis, have been waiting for the opportunity to prove their resiliency as a unit.

With the Bayou Bengals visiting, the offense may have found their ideal moment to dominate.

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