Protecting the offense is a job for one frat: Foot Phi

Nick Walton

Offensive line works as a unit amidst changes

The players on Kent State’s offensive line are part of an exclusive fraternity.

As members of Foot Phi, the offensive linemen have a commitment to hard work.

“We dedicate our time to each other, and we’re here together everyday much like a fraternity, but we don’t have all those parties,” sophomore guard Michael Fay said.

The only rule of the fraternity is when a member says “Foot Phi” out loud, another member has to yell, “ball back.”

“It’s just like a long distance handshake,” junior tackle Pat Reedy said. “I could scream to someone 200 yards away and if they hear me, they got to say ‘ball back’.”

Standing out from the rest of the team, coach Doug Martin deemed the linemen “social misfits.”

“If you ever watch them, they’re always hanging together,” Martin said. “They’re very seldom apart, and it gets to be a really tight-knit group because they respect what each other has to do so much.”

Offensive line coach Terry Tilghman started “Foot Phi” while he was an offensive lineman at East Carolina.

The linemen credit Tilghman for making them a cohesive unit through repetition and accountability.

“He’s the kind of coach that when it’s time to work, he works us real hard and when it’s time to relax, he gives us plenty of time to relax,” Reedy said. “One period of practice we’ll be driving a sled up and down the field and then the next five minutes of practice we’ll get a chance to relax and talk.”

When the linemen don’t hear from Tilghman, they are having a good day.

“It’s funny for offensive lineman, we don’t really get any praise (because) we won’t really hear anything from the coaches unless we mess up,” Fay said. “The only way we know if we’re doing good is if no one’s talking to us. That’s how we gauge success. If we can just go through a day without getting yelled at, and pretty much have everybody off our back, that means we’re doing our job.”

Entering this season, the linemen had to make major adjustments with the departure of quarterback and current NFL player Julian Edelman.

“There’s a lot more pressure on them to perform now, because obviously our quarterbacks are not going to run like Julian did,” Martin said. “They have to be much better in pass protection. The ball’s going to get thrown a lot more. We’re going to be in the pocket a lot more.”

Already adjusting to the loss of Edelman, the linemen also have dealt with injuries to sophomore quarterback Giorgio Morgan and senior running back Eugene Jarvis. Despite having to make adjustments, the linemen aren’t concerned with who they block for.

“From our standpoint we don’t care,” Reedy said. “We’re out there and we’re blocking defensive linemen and linebackers, and it doesn’t really matter who they put behind us. We’re going to block for them and hopefully they’re going to make plays.”

Along with injuries, the linemen had to adjust to new members on the line. Freshman guard Josh Kline and freshman tackle Brian Winters have gotten acclimated with their roles early.

“Winters was forced to come in here and start as a freshman, (and) he learned the offense really fast,” Fay said. “Kline fills in at every position – he plays left and right tackle, left and right guard, backup center. He’s had the most mix and match of anyone on the offensive line, and for him to all a sudden be called up to first string and play the way he’s playing right now just proves that he has the capability to be a Division I offensive lineman with the best of them.”

Losing Jarvis for the season has also meant losing a leader on offense for Kent State. Martin expects the linemen to step into a leadership role.

“On the best teams, that’s the way it happens because those guys command a lot of respect,” Martin said.

Martin specifically wants sophomore center Chris Anzevino to be a leader on offense. Anzevino is already a leader on the offensive line and isn’t afraid to get after teammates.

“You ask for who’s going to get in people’s face that would definitely be (Anzevino),” Fay said. “He’s got the hot temper and at times it can really get people motivated.”

Martin said the offensive line has started to work as a complete unit over the last couple of weeks.

“I think it’s just repetitions and getting in games and getting used to game speed,” Martin said. “I still don’t think they’ve played up to their potential, but they’re getting closer to where we need them.”

Reedy said the easiest way for the linemen to pick the team up is to pick their play up.

“If we protect better, we’re going to throw the ball better. If we run block better, we’re going to run the ball better,” Reedy said. “If we want to help improve the rest of the team, then we just got to pick our play up and then they usually follow right after us.”

Contact sports reporter Nick Walton at [email protected].