By Andrew Glover
STILLWATER, Okla. —
The Stillwater Pioneers’ offensive line may be young but isn’t shying away from the battle in the trenches.
“I like their physical nature,” coach Tucker Barnard said. “DJ Peckham is the only returning starter. We got a senior, Sterling Watkins and two sophomores Chris Kerntke and Braden Henry that have primarily worked with the first group. They are coming off violently. That’s what we need.”
Peckham said he is embracing his leadership role adding the younger players are progressing well.
“I feel confident,” Peckham said. “I want to help the younger kids do what they need to do and get them up to speed.”
The Pioneers didn’t take the field Monday due to the threat of severe weather. On Friday, Barnard gave reps to several of the younger players.
“We had people who hadn’t taken significant varsity snaps on the field,” Barnard said. “Our group of younger players are talented and hopefully will be good varsity players.
“They still have a ways to go but they are really tuning in to Coach (Chad) Cawood. I’m excited.”
The offensive line isn’t the only position group lacking experience as the backfield has seen limited action. Quarterback Braxton Noble only played four games and part of a fifth before a season ending injury. The running backs are young as Davyn Thompson graduated. Peckham said he is confident with Noble.
“I think he can get the job down,” Peckham said. “I’ve played with him since fourth grade. Our running back is pretty good too and I played with him since fifth grade. We are a cohesive unit.”
Barnard said his offense might be young but is talented.
“(Noble) can do those things to get the ball out quick,” Barnard said. “The challenge with a young offensive line is dealing with blitz pick up and working together. That’s key. The guys can understand personal responsibility. We’re hoping they can work together and knew when to pass something up or pick it up.
“We’ve been putting a little pressure on them to create problems for them but I think they will get it.”
Peckham said dealing with defensive pressure was hard at first but said the line is improving.
“I think we are handling it better,” Peckham said. “(Dealing with pressure) makes you want to achieve more.”
Peckham said the biggest key will not only be how they handle the opponent but themselves. Especially dealing with a number of tough moments last season.
“We need to be more supportive of each other,” Peckham said. “Last season we got down on ourselves and yelled at each other. We need to have more positive thinking.”