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Panthers feature new faces on offensive line

by | Jul 3, 2023 | Sports

Replacing four out of five starters on the offensive line is challenging, but the Princeton Panthers have the talent ready to step up.

Princeton isn’t deprived of varsity football experience on the offensive line, with four players who saw the field last season stepping into bigger roles in 2023. For head coach Ervin Chandler, he believes in the talent the team has on the line of scrimmage, but understands replacing that leadership will be difficult.

“There are going to be some guys we’ll have to replace and guys who were experienced in Jacob Speer and Landon Peach,” Chandler said. “Those guys did an excellent job for us and were leaders, so it’ll be tough.”

Caesar Garcia projects as one of the new starters for the Panthers, moving from tight end to left tackle this offseason. One of the most experienced players on the team heading into his senior year, Garcia has done all the right things this offseason to put himself in a position to succeed at his position change.

“I can’t say enough about Caesar and what he does for this football team,” Chandler said. “We asked him about it and all he said was, ‘Whatever you need me to do, coach.’ He’s working  hard and is putting in the work in the weight room and workouts to play left tackle for us.”

While sliding to the offensive line can be challenging for some tight ends, Garcia’s frame and work ethic makes it possible for the switch to happen. He was already a strong blocker last season from tight end and now is big enough to handle the increased responsibility of protecting the backfield.

“He’s put on a lot of weight this offseason,” Chandler said. “There’s not much of a change in teaching, he’s just catching the ball less. He knows all the techniques and can do a really good job at it.”

Besides Garcia, two rising sophomores who saw the varsity field as freshmen last season will also see increased roles in 2023. Lane Martin will play at right tackle while Javian Smith will play guard and can play either tackle position as well.

Those two will be joined by Rayden Dockery, who played center last season for the Panthers varsity team, and Logan McGill, who played center on the junior varsity team that did well. With that starting five, the Panthers are confident they can run the ball and be effective this season.

Carson Cook and Hayden Lopez will also feature on the offensive line, moving up from junior varsity and providing depth to the starters, who will see a lot of snaps on both sides of the ball next season.

“Our interior offensive line is strong,” Chandler said. “We’ve got six or seven guys we feel really good that can make an impact next season. We’ve got some guys that can really compete and some guys are going to play both ways for us because we have the depth and talent to work with.”

Garcia and Smith are both players that project to see snaps on both sides of the ball, while a few defensive linemen might see work on the offensive side.

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