I just realized that I don't give enough "props" to offensive linemen, at least not nearly as much as I should. Case in point, Antron Harper. After starting 25 games over the past two seasons at the right guard position, Harper was switched to center this offseason to help anchor a refurbished offensive line. Typically when you make these position changes you expect some dropoff in the caliber of play, and although the season has yet to begin, Antron has already been earning some lofty praise.
After having a fine spring Harper was recently rewarded by being named one of 41 players named to the "watch list" for the Outland Trophey, which is presented at the end of the college football season to the best interior lineman in the country. You may also remember that Antron was named to the "watch list" for the prestigious Remington Award several weeks ago, which is presented to the "most outstanding center in college football."
Being named to both of these watch lists are a testament to Antron's career at the Naval Academy and the great job he's done both on and off the field. So often over the last two seasons when his name was mentioned it was usually in connection with his 5'11 height, which made him the smallest offensive linemen in the FBS. Fortunately after 25 starts and two All-Bowl team selections by ESPN.com, Antron has built a reputation of not only being one of the smallest linemen, but one of the best. If you watched him in spring, as so many of us eager fans did, then you are more than aware of just how good he is, and how dominant he may become at his new position. I'm not an expert on the play of the offensive line, but from what I've seen Antron is a master "technician" at center. He uses his hands better than anyone on the team, and gets great leverage against bigger defenders. He gave highly touted Navy defensive tackle Nate Frazier a rude awakening in spring ball despite being several inches shorter, and has earned the most lofty praise from coach Paul Johnson. Knowing that Johnson rarely gives out such open praise for his players, his words on Antron cannot be interpreted any differently, as the senior from Eastman, Georgia has certainly left his mark on the program.
Congratulations Antron, and best of luck in 2007!
(Picture from Navysports.com)