Top 10 offensive linemen to watch in Rockford-area high school football
High school football kicks off on Aug. 27, and the Rockford Register Star's preseason coverage continues as we wrap up our player position breakdowns.
Leading up to the Aug. 27 season-opening kickoff, we will not only take a look at the best teams from the NIC-10, Big Northern, NUIC and 8-man football, but we will also take a position-by-position look at the top players to watch in the entire area.
Today, we end our series of player-position profiles by spotlighting the offensive linemen. In alphabetical order, here are 10 blockers to watch from the Rockford area heading into the fall football season:
Jaden Cook, Rochelle
The 6-foot-2, 230-pound junior left tackle was perhaps the best player as a sophomore on a Rochelle team that relies on the run and finished 2-4.
“He’s very physical for a kid his size and is a heavyweight wrestler,” Rochelle coach Kyle Kissack said. “He has plenty of experience competing at a higher level.”
Evan England, East
The 6-foot-4, 285-pound England is a three-year starter who has played tackle, guard and center and is being recruited “by about 20 schools,” according to East coach Gary Griffin. “He’s tough. he’s a leader. He’s a good student. He does everything he’s supposed to do. If we had a game tomorrow he would be our left tackle, but he can play anywhere and I think he will get his (scholarship) money from playing center in college.”
Jacob Klink, Hononegah
Hononegah tends to have mammoth offensive linemen. Three-year starting guards Jacob Klink and Clay Walls are the latest. Both were honorable mention all-conference last year. Walls, a senior, is 6-foot-1 and 300 pounds. Klink, still only a junior, is even bigger.
“He is a mountain of a man,” Hononegah coach Brian Zimmerman said, “6-3 and close to 400 pounds. And he has good feet. His first three steps are really good for his size. He can play all three positions on the offensive line, but has been playing guard.”
Mat Logan, Boylan
While the NIC-10 is loaded with returning all-conference defensive players, the 6-foot-3, 275-pound Logan and Harlem’s Nate Smith were the only non-seniors among the17 first-team picks on offense last year. Logan was picked on the offensive line, while Smith was an at-large choice. Logan paves the way for a ground-base Boylan attack that outscored opponents 104-14 in three games last year and went 15-1 the last two seasons.
Nate Smith, Harlem
Smith made first-team all-conference as an at-large pick as a junior last year. He is 6-foot-1, 270 pounds and will be paired at tackle with 6-3, 300-pound Brennon McCoy.
“They cave in walls,” Harlem coach Bob Moynihan said. “Neither one of them gave up a sack last year and they can wash down an entire side down blocking.”
Hunter Evans, Lutheran
The sophomore started on the line for Lutheran as a freshman during the spring, showing that he belonged early on. Evans played both ways last season, and he will again this fall.
"Those guys played really well up front for us in the spring, and we're going to need a lot out of them again," Lutheran coach Ron Gates said. Gates was an assistant at Lutheran for the past five years, and is now the head coach. "Hunter is ready for this level, we've got a lot of confidence in him."
Mason Fox, Forreston
At 6-foot-5, 240 pounds, Fox is coming off a second-team all-conference season, and will be hungry for more.
"He's one of the best teammates you could ask for and is really coming into his own as a football player," Forreston coach Keynon Janicke said. "I'm looking forward to an outstanding season from Mason at tackle."
Clay Ludeking, Aquin
Aquin is switching over to the 8-man format this season, but still has one of the best offensive lineman around.
"This kid was pretty special on their OL last year on probably the best team in the state," Dakota coach Joe Free said.
Ross Stabenow, Lena-Winslow
At 6-foot-4, 275 pounds, the senior has grown into a force on the line for Lena-Winslow, and he should shine this season. Along with fellow lineman Tyler Croatt, the Panthers have the potential of dominating up front every week.
"In this conference, you have to be good up front to be good," Lena-Winslow coach Ric Arand said.
Jake Taylor, Dakota
The junior center started last year as a sophomore. He's 5-foot-11, 232 pounds, and he makes all the line calls for the offense.
"He is one of our strongest kids," Free said. "And he's extremely smart both football-wise and academically."
Matt Trowbridge: firstname.lastname@example.org; @matttrowbridge