Mercer head coach Bobby Lamb raved about his offensive line after the Bears’ final scrimmage of the preseason Saturday at Five Star Stadium.
The player the offensive line will protect the most agreed.
“We looked really good,” junior quarterback John Russ said about the offense before turning his praise directly to the five players in front of him. “The offensive line was so good; they made everyone else’s job easy. In any camp, the defense is going to control things, and (earlier in the week) we weren’t playing up to our standards. We didn’t have the energy and enthusiasm that we had (Saturday), but we had our crowd out here, and we were excited, and our offensive line just took control.
“I can’t say enough about our offensive line.”
The talk of the week had focused on the Bears’ defense controlling the action, but that changed Saturday. The starting group appears to be Thomas Marchman (left tackle), Wilson Heres (left guard), Kirby Southard (center), Caleb Yates (right guard) and Bret Niederreither (right tackle). Niederreither moved over from defense this offseason.
The second group is made up of Mitch Payne (left tackle), Zac Rice (left guard), Sam Arrington (center), Avery White (right guard) and Mitch Mathes (right tackle). Mathes is a true freshman, while Lamb said Payne has been banged up.
“Our offensive line probably played the best we have played here in the preseason,” Lamb said. “Our defense gives us a lot of fits because they move a lot and do a lot of stunting up front, but I really thought our offensive line was the story (Saturday). They controlled the front and allowed Alex (Lakes) and Tee (Mitchell) to have some really good runs.
“It was very encouraging because in practice all week, they haven’t done that. The defensive front had controlled them. But the offensive line has a lot of pride, and they bounced back in a great way. We have some flexibility to move some people around, and last year we didn’t have that flexibility.”
Lamb singled out big catches from wide receiver Chandler Curtis and tight ends Robert Brown and Sam Walker during the workout. The scrimmage lasted only a half as the Bears continue to build toward their season opener Sept. 5 at Austin Peay.
“I think we’re right where we need to be,” Lamb said. “We have to continue to push hard on conditioning this week. It was hot and humid out here, and we only played a half, and they felt it.”
Still, Russ liked what he saw from his offensive linemen and his team in general.
“A good team will go back and forth in practice, and we still have two weeks to prepare and practice and get better,” he said. “We’re excited about moving forward.”