Central Washington University had one of the most prolific offenses in 2018 led by quarterback Reilly Hennessy and running backs Michael Roots and Cedric Cooper. But masked behind that prosperity was the production from the guys up front.

Offensive linemen rarely make headlines or accentuate stat sheets. But for CWU, the success of the offense always is determined by the linemen. A cohort that helped CWU rank second in all Division II with 540.9 yards of total offense per game, and 47.7 points per game.

“Personally, my beliefs with the O-line, I always think it starts up front,” said senior center Nicholas Streubel. “The way that Central has always done it, is we like to run the ball first. We like to ground it and pound it. I feel like we definitely have to make it a standard for us to move the ball before anything else.”

It’s a motif that the Wildcats stick to. But the offensive line won’t look the same without three graduated seniors in All-American James Moore, GNAC First Team selection Luke Asbjornsen and Honorable Mention Chandler Streuli.

CWU returns only two of its starters — Streubel and 6-foot-6 redshirt junior Will Ortner. But CWU will also have redshirt sophomore Raymond Schalk returning who played in all 11 games, and redshirt sophomore Scottland Vise, who appeared in three games.

But losing three starters isn’t as fatal as it seems. Just ask head coach Chris Fisk.

“I think a lot of people assume because you lose three guys you didn’t have anything behind them,” Fisk said. “We got some guys that played a lot last year that repped a lot. We had a lot of games where we were up big and we got a lot of reps for some young guys.”

Added Ortner: “We don’t rebuild, we develop. So, we’re constantly getting better.”

Along with the plethora of incoming freshmen lineman, CWU added transfer Donald Wilkinson, a 6-foot-7 redshirt freshman out of FCS Division I Southern Utah University, and junior Emmanuel Smith from Central Lakes College.

FALL CAMP

CWU completed its second day of fall camp and is still without pads, so it’s too early for the coaching staff to know where everyone stands at this moment. And it will take time filling three voids up front, especially without knowing who CWU will start at quarterback.

“I think more than anything, it’s going to take time to take a new quarterback and some new guys in the O-line and find that gel and find that cohesiveness that you’re always looking for,” Fisk said. “You know, I think Reilly (Hennessey) had a great relationship with those guys up front last year — and it showed. So, we’re just trying to find what is the best set of guys. What are the best five guys? What are the best six guys with the tight end to go with whoever we end up going with at quarterback.”

But what they do know is they can count on Streubel and Ortner leading this group.

“Those two have always been big leaders in our program,” Fisk said. “Streubel, in my mind, is an All-American caliber player. Should have been an All-American last year. He’s been a rock for us.”

And Ortner has played about every position up front — including tight end.

“He probably knows the offense better than coach (Kelly) Bills and I,” Fisk said.

Ortner will be taking over left tackle this season, a position that was held by Moore, who was a mentor to him from the beginning.

“I just tried to take everything that he did and apply it to where I could do it as well,” Ortner said. “… What James did, I tried to mimic. I would watch his film, and just study him all the time. So I’m trying to basically be a similar component to what he was.”

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