02/18/2011 11:18 AM
The offensive linemen on a football team are often the most underappreciated players. They are also, coincidentally, among the most important.
Without every defender accounted for and blocks being executed, huge runs would not happen. Long touchdown passes would not soar through the air so effortlessly without the line picking up every blitzing opponent and giving the quarterback time to throw. An offense cannot move an inch unless the men up front are perfectly in sync. One wrong step, one misplaced block or one missed assignment can throw off an entire play.
Just as the roots are the foundation of a great oak, the line stabilizes the functionality of an offense.
The Gladiators return two key pieces to their three-man front in 2011 – Adam Tadisch and Billy Eisenhardt. These two were pivotal in the Gladiator offense finishing second in passing, fifth in points per game, and allowing the third-least sacks of any team in the AFL in 2010. Despite a disappointing 7-9 finish, the Gladiators and their high-powered offensive unit had a plus-32 point differential and were one of the top offenses in the AFL.
Having continuity on the offensive line and a strong quarterback-to-center relationship are two underrated characteristics. The familiarity and trust formed makes doing your job much easier when you don’t have to wonder if the guy next to you will be where he is supposed to. Three individuals can move as one when they are on the same wavelength and put the rest of the offense in better position to succeed.
Tadisch returns as the anchor of the line at guard. The 6’8” 325-pound behemoth was tabbed with first-team All-Arena honors last season and has become a star in his own right within the last year.
Some remember the big man from his highlight of dragging multiple Spokane Shock defenders into the end zone during a rushing score last season. Others might recognize him from his training camp stint with the New York Jets during last summer when he was featured on HBO’s Hard Knocks. What’s instantly noticeable by anyone familiar with arena football is Tadisch’s blocking talent and undeniable strength on the turf.
Eisenhardt was a staple at center through the first 14 games before suffering a season-ending hand injury and missing the final two contests. As the center is the signal-caller and eyes of the offensive line, Billy had a solid run in his first season in the AFL as the man in the middle and John Dutton’s main protector.
He played his college ball at Grand Valley State University, while being a two-time All-Conference selection and a two-time Division II National Champion with the Lakers. The Gladiators will rely on Eisenhardt’s intelligence, sound technique and leadership to command the front in 2011.
A number of newcomers to the AFL will fill in the rest of the spots on the offensive front, but it’s imperative that the continuity from last year’s unit roll over into the new season. The success of the offense depends on the men up front working together in unison. Despite the individuals who do all of the scoring, games are won and lost by the men in the trenches who rarely ever touch the ball.