LINCOLN — Linemen aren’t always the most agile, athletic or fast players on the football field, but Lincoln is planning on putting one of it’s smallest and fastest players on the offensive line this season.
Tyler Kroenke plays linebacker on defense and was mainly used as a receiver on offense in the past, but all 140 pounds of him may be blocking for players that weigh more than he does.
“He’s really aggressive, works hard and we knew he’d step up and do the job for us,” said coach Danny Morrison.
Kroenke is giving the offensive tackle position a try this season because the team is looking to replace most of its starting linemen from last season.
“I haven’t played that position before, but it’s going good,” Kroenke said. “I’ve got to learn all the plays and I have to work on staying low.”
Because of his obvious size disadvantage, Kroenke will depend on his technique and ability to make first contact after the snap.
“The biggest challenge is if they get their hands into you first,” Kroenke said. “You have to stay low and make first contact with them because if you’re too high and they get you first, it’s over. It’s just physics.”
One of the running backs Kroenke will be blocking for is Heath Renno, who plays next to Kroenke on defense.
“Tyler is definitely not the biggest guy on the line, but Tyler’s got such a big heart and he’s got so much motivation and he just loves the game,” Renno said.
The decision to move Kroenke to the line adds to the team’s plan to use speed as its advantage this season.
Three of the starting offensive linemen from last season graduated and the options to fill those spots are limited.
“The line is going to be relatively young and new with the exception of two guys coming back,” Morrison said. “We’re going to factor more in our speed as opposed to trying to overpower people.”
The center spot will change from last season and Morrison said Hayden Rath and Clayton Kreissler are strong possibilities to play somewhere on the line.
Kroenke will take one tackle spot and Morrison said there are a few players battling for the other.
Kroenke got to show what he has at a camp at Missouri Valley this summer.
“He does a great job,” Morrison said. “He works his tail off. He might be out-sized, but I guarantee he’s going to get the job done. We don’t worry about it a bit.”
The determination and willing to do anything to help the team win went into the decision to put Kroenke at tackle and Morrison said Kroenke has had that attitude for a while.
“I think since he was born, I don’t know,” he said. “Everything he does is 100 percent. We met in the coaches meeting and said ‘hey we’re going to have to replace some linemen.’ He doesn’t have the weight on him, but he has the will. We’ll take that any day. We started talking to him about it late last year and he took it and he’s going to make it his.”
Jason Strickland can be reached at 660-530-0147 or on Twitter @J_Strick_Sports.