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Projecting the Depth Chart: Offensive Line

Three definite starters make for a nice foundation.

NCAA Football: East Carolina at Cincinnati Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Protecting the backfield is something you definitely need when you have a major battle at quarterback and a running back with tons of talent but inexperience behind him. We still don’t really know who is going to start under center for the Cincinnati Bearcats in 2017 and after Mike Boone, there are some promising youngsters, but nobody like Tion Green, who could grind out yards after contact in his sleep.

The group that will be tasked with protecting Hayden Moore or Ross Trail and opening lanes for Boone and company has some standouts as well as some question marks. We looked at the candidates for the offensive line rotation earlier this week and now we’ll take a guess as to who will fit in where.

Definite Starters

Korey Cunningham, OT

This is an easy one. Cunningham started in 12 games a year ago and played in nine of 12 the year before that. The former three-star prospect is the senior leader for the trenches and at 6’6” and 305 pounds, he is going to be able to seal the edge as well as anyone else on the team.

Will Steur, OG

Steur wasn’t an every game starter in 2016 and barely played in the two years before that but the Cincinnati native did make five starts last season and should be given dibs on one of the starting guard roles.

David Niehaus, C

Niehaus backed up one of the best in the business in Deyshawn Bond last season and still got into 11 games. The walk-on from Cincinnati played at Colerain and should finish his collegiate career as a first-teamer.

Position Battles

The other guard and tackle posts are up for grabs. Senior Garrett Campbell and redshirt junior Keith Minor have a good shot at slotting in at guard while Blake Yager is a sophomore transfer student who could get time at tackle. I’d also expect senior Kendall Calhoun and juniors Chris Ferguson and Morgan James to compete for starting jobs.

Final Projection

First Team

Korey Cunningham, OT

Blake Yager, OT

David Niehaus, C

Will Steur, OG

Garrett Campbell, OG

Cunningham, Steur and Niehaus were obvious choices. Campbell is a senior and has played in 20 games as a backup over the last two seasons. It’s his time to try his hand at starting. As for Yager, with JUCO experience already under his belt, I expect the new recruit to impress in camp.

Second Team

Kendall Calhoun, OT

Morgan James, OT

Zach Bycznski, C

Kyle Trout, OG

Keith Minor, OG

Picking a second team is a tougher job, as Luke Fickell and his staff will probably be shifting the depth chart quite a bit during the season. Although he didn’t play much at all last season, Calhoun has the size (6’7”, 300 pounds) to be an effective edge protector. James played in 10 games as a backup tackle and could even push for a starting role. Bycznski was a three-star recruit out of high school and redshirted last season. He projects as a decent backup to Niehaus. Trout was a talented recruit but came over from Ohio State because he didn’t get as much time on the field as he wanted. He is lower on this projection than he might end up due to his talent and relationship with Fickell. He could also play tackle. Minor started in two games last season but didn’t do much more. His role will likely expand, but by how much remains to be seen.