Tribe football preview: offensive line

WYDaily.com is your source for free news and information in Williamsburg, James City & York Counties.

unnamed (1)If the old adage that games are won in the trenches holds true this fall, William & Mary should expect another successful season in 2016. That was certainly the case last year when four members of the Tribe’s offensive line earned all-conference honors after allowing the league’s fewest sacks per game (1.08) and leading the nation in fewest tackles for a loss per game (3.46). Although the graduation of two-time first-team All-CAA center Andrew Jones will pose a challenge, position coach Bob Solderitch‘s unit features a veteran group that includes four returning starters and three all-conference honorees.

Anchoring the left side of the line will be a pair of all-conference standouts who enter their third seasons as starters in junior left tackle Chris Durant (6-4, 310) and junior left guard Connor Hilland (6-6, 303).

Having earned all 19 of his career starts at left tackle, Durant is a big, strong, athletic lineman who plays with a tough, aggressive style. Additionally, he blends those traits with good feet and mobility.

Hilland also boasts 19 career starts, all coming at left guard, and is the unit’s strongest player. The Stafford, Va., native is very physical and moves well, which has enabled him to excel in run blocking. Additionally, he consistently shows good toughness and great effort.

Seniors Jerry Ugokwe (6-8, 305) and Domenic Martinelli (6-4, 295) will once again occupy the starting spots on the right side of the line and have combined to total 60 starts during the past three seasons.

A third-team all-conference selection last fall, Ugokwe returns as one of the league’s elite right tackles. In addition to boasting tremendous experience (31 career starts), he possesses imposing NFL-caliber size and has consistently shown improvement, both in strength and technique, throughout his career. The Bowie, Md., native is coming off an outstanding spring in which he showed the potential to assert himself as a dominant force during his senior campaign.

An experienced veteran, Martinelli has logged 29 career starts, including all 13 games at right guard last fall. The unit’s most savvy player, he possesses a great understanding of the offense and is one of the group’s leaders. Additionally, he competes with great poise and blends good balance and strength.

Competing for the starting center spot will be senior Kevin Jennings (6-2, 280) and redshirt freshman Nick Wimmer (6-2, 310).

Having served as a backup to Jones during the past three seasons, Jennings has gained a good knowledge of the position during his career. The Richmond, Va., native is an aggressive, physical, strong lineman who works hard plays with a good motor.

One of the team’s most talented young players, Wimmer has shown tremendous potential during his limited time on campus. In addition to being one of the unit’s strongest players, he competes with a physical style and utilizes leverage well. Prior to joining the Tribe last fall, Wimmer was a three-time All-America wrestler in high school who garnered national runner-up honors.