Over the next couple of weeks, the Catamount Sports Network and CatamountSports.com will feature positional previews of the 2016 Catamount football team. Each feature will contain the position write-ups from the 2016 Western Carolina media guide, and Catamount Sports Network All-Access video highlights and interviews with the position coach and student-athletes.
2016 Catamount Football Position Preview: the Offensive LineUnder the guidance of position coach John Holt, Western Carolina's offensive line is a blend of returning experience and youthful potential entering the 2016 season. The Catamounts lost four seniors off a veteran group a season ago including three among the starting rotation. WCU had two offensive linemen -- Jake Thornton and Josh Wineberg -- collect All-Southern Conference honors a year ago. Thornton didn't go far, though, as he returns this fall as quality control coach alongside Holt.
WCU returns eight offensive linemen that have seen collegiate action -- but the roster only features one senior among four combined upper classmen. Hudson, N.C., native Ethan James is the lone senior on the Catamount offensive line. He has the most experience with 32 games played with 11 combined starts.
Two Catamount offensive linemen were named to the Southern Conference All-Freshman team a season ago. Returning redshirt sophomores Nathan Dalton and Zach Weeks were among WCU's honorees at the end of the 2015 season, both playing 11 games apiece. Dalton graced the SoCon's preseason all-conference team in late July with a second team nod from the league's head coaches.
WCU has two key linemen returning to the lineup that missed 2015 due to injury. Redshirt junior Tanner Poindexter, who played in 20 combined games with nine starts over his first two seasons, and redshirt sophomore Austin Miles, who played in 11 games in 2014, are both expected to be back and contend for starting jobs.
Highly-touted true freshmen Matthew Bair (Anderson, S.C.), Bailey Byrum (Sweetwater, Tenn.), and Wyatt Burnette (Franklin, N.C.) will add depth and could each see playing time. Bair, though, has been sidelined this preseason with a pectoral injury. WCU was also dealt a blow to its offensive line with an injury to returning redshirt junior Brandon Berridge, who had played in 22 games with three starts over his first two seasons on the field.
ADDITIONAL OFFENSIVE LINE NOTES:
Western Carolina's average height along the offensive line is 6.347 feet tall while the average weight is 292.3 pounds;
WCU's offensive line features four players from Western North Carolina -- Walker Lanning (Hendersonville, N.C.), Zach Weeks (Bryson City, N.C.), Wyatt Burnette (Franklin, N.C.), and Nathan Dalton (East Flat Rock, N.C.).
WCU Football 2016 Position-by-Position Preview (tentative schedule):
Offensive Line - ABOVE
Defensive Line - Aug. 10
Tight Ends - Aug. 12
Linebackers - Aug. 15
Wide Receivers - Aug. 18
Special Teams - Aug. 19
Running Backs - Aug. 22
Defensive Backs - Aug. 23
Quarterbacks - Aug. 24
* Release schedule subject to change