Seeing the big guys up front compete against other schools Tuesday had Minot High School offensive line coach Mike Upton breathing a little easier.
Before that, Upton was only comfortable naming two sure starters on a line that is fairly inexperienced and graduated three of the five starters from 2012.
"We expect the same things out of these guys," Upton said. "We don't have the size that we had, but we expect them to be able to do the same things. You know, hopefully what we don't have in size, we can make up for in quickness."
Minot High School senior lineman Joey Rensvold bulls by a teammate during practice Friday at Magic City Campus.
The strength of the line is on the left side, where seniors Andrew Arnold and Joey Rensvold return to their roles at tackle and guard, respectively.
Arnold (6-foot-2, 205 pounds) and Rensvold (5-10, 242) will protect senior quarterback Alex Yanosko's blind side and help anchor a dangerous power-running game led by seniors Brady Lampert and Kolton Larson. Rensvold is comfortable with the line's overall size, but knows the younger players will have to pick their roles up quickly.
"A big thing that we need to work on is communication up front," Rensvold said. "It's a big thing coach Upton stresses all the time for us - communicate. If one guys knows what's going on it's pretty easy for the other guys to figure out what's going on after that. And then just go hard, go to the whistle. That's what it's all about."
OL depth chart
1. Andrew Arnold, Sr. 6-2 205
2. Travis Berg, Jr. 6-0 278
1. Joey Rensvold, Sr. 5-10 242
2. Dustin Lakefield, Sr. 6-0 192
1. Spencer Brekhus, Jr. 5-9 224
2. Tyler Steenerson, Sr. 6-1 262
1. Ian Hyde, Sr. 6-2 214
2. Matthew Sys, Jr. 6-0 221
1. Tyler Steenerson, Sr. 6-1 262
2. Braden Lindquist, Jr. 6-2 219
Also playing on the OL: Grant Larson, Isaiah Crowe, Joey Mau, Nathan Hewitt, Cole Long, Chance Klatt, Clay Poole
Upton named junior Spencer Brekhus (5-9, 224) the starting center midweek following an open battle with a handful of contenders.
"Right now, (Brekhus) just wants it," Upton said. "I mean, he was a guy that we looked at last year even a little bit. The sophomore coach talked about how good he was last year and how good of a job he did. He's not a real huge kid - maybe not the tallest kid we've got - but he gets in there and fights."
Senior Ian Hyde (6-2, 214) will start at right guard and classmate Tyler Steenerson (6-1, 262) will start at right tackle. Steenerson will fill in at center if needed.
"So far a lot of people have stepped up," Arnold said. "Ian Hyde has stepped up pretty well with the right guard role."
Rensvold draws confidence in the newcomers because last year's seniors Nick Nesdahl, Bryan Doerr and all-state selection Tanner Gust assumed starting roles with little experience.
"We got some fast guys up front," Rensvold said. "We're pretty small, but our fast guys are pretty good, so I think our pulling game is gonna be good. We should be able to get some movement off of the nose."
Upton expects the line to thrive in the zone-blocking plays with Kolton Larson back after missing the majority of 2012 with a foot injury. As a sophomore, Larson led a running game that averaged nine yards per carry on zone plays.
"It's always the run first," Upton said. "If we can run the ball, we'll be OK. We've got a lot of athletes this year, so if we can block up front it's gonna make it that much easier and it'll open up the pass, but it's always the run first."
Tim Chapman covers Minot High School athletics. Follow him on Twitter @chapmatp.
Editor's note: This is part seven of an eight-part series breaking down each unit of the Minot High School football team. Special teams will be featured in Sunday's paper.