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Like previous seasons, Oswego’s strength starts on the line

Matt Egly has a luxury that might not sound so enviable on a day-to-day practice.

Facing the guys across the line.

Egly, Oswego’s senior defensive end, benefits from some pretty intense – albeit friendly – battles in the trenches in practice with offensive tackles Aidan Tweedy and Otto Hess, the latter a mountain of a 6-foot-6, 293-pound young man.

“Man, they are two different kinds of players but both really good at what they do,” Egly said. “Tweedy got really big lately, he’s really technically sound, there’s nothing he’s bad at. Otto is just a large, large human being. It’s fun to go against them, but, man, it’s hard work.”

Oswego has churned out some nasty linemen over the years, a big reason why the Panthers have made eight straight playoff appearances and won at least nine games each year under head coach Brian Cooney. Former All-State defensive tackle Noah Shannon is now at Iowa, Jack Hugunin a freshman defensive tackle at Northern Illinois.

It should be more of the same this spring, with Hess, Tweedy and center Carter Anderson back on the offensive line and defensive ends Anthony Cikauskas and Egly returning on the opposite side. Cikauskas and Egly combined for 95 tackles and 15 sacks in 2019 in their first fully varsity seasons.

“Returning starters are so valuable because they have that experience, they’ve gone through the growing pains, they make mistakes but they’re quicker to make new ones. They have been there and done that,” Cooney said. “Collectively you can talk to them and use a different vocabulary.”

Oswego defensive lineman Matthew Egly (48) during football practice in Oswego March 11

Oswego defensive lineman Matthew Egly (48) during football practice in Oswego March 11 (Sean King for Shaw Local/)

Cooney said they’re collectively highly-intelligent kids on and off the field, with a GPA on the offensive side through the roof that helps simplify blocking schemes. It helps to have a guy like Anderson, who sports a 4.6 weighted GPA and plans to major in mechanical engineering while playing football with Cikauskas at Olivet Nazarene.

“Being the center, I’m kind of the leader of the offensive line, I feel I’m able to learn the concepts more easily than other linemen,” Anderson said. “Learning those concepts I’m able to teach everybody what to do, I’m able to call protections on pass [protection], load the line. Knowing how the play unfolds I’m able to make better decisions to help us. I definitely never thought the schemes would be this involved, but it’s fun to be able to outnumber people and work the angles.”

Anderson played guard his freshman and sophomore years, and was going to as a junior until Oswego needed a center. He started working on snaps in July, a month before the season.

This extended offseason has allowed Anderson to bulk up considerably. He played as a junior at 205-210 pounds, by far Oswego’s smallest lineman, but through eating better and lifting – Oswego’s linemen have been in the weight room four days a week at 5:30 a.m. since January – Anderson’s put on 25-30 pounds.

“I can feel the difference when I’m hitting people, they can’t move me as easy,” said Anderson, recalling the chore of facing 300-pound nose guards as a junior. “It’s going to help a lot with my confidence. We’re going to have a good time throwing some people around.”

Oswego offensive lineman Otto Hess (right) blocks during football practice in Oswego March 11

Oswego offensive lineman Otto Hess (right) blocks during football practice in Oswego March 11 (Sean King for Shaw Local/)

Egly is as experienced as any Oswego lineman on either side.

He dressed with Oswego’s varsity for the playoffs as a freshman, and still remembers Shannon beating a triple-team to drop a running back for a 3-yard loss in a game. Egly’s gained 50 pounds since then, but since last season has actually dropped 20 pounds and feels stronger, faster and quicker to the ball.

“We’ve been following a plan coach [John] Hugunin put in front of us,” Egly said. “It involved in the start endurance lifting, getting us ready for the season and we got closer and closer alternating days with heavy strength training and the next day explosive stuff, a lot of jumps, speed and band work.”

Oswego graduated considerable size in its defensive front with Hugunin and Kiamirrion Howze, but Egly likes what he’s seeing from this current group.

He’s also enjoyed the daily head-to-heads with the offensive line anchored by Hess, a Boston College recruit.

“When we go first-team offense and first-team defense, it doesn’t get heated but there’s energy out there,” Egly said. “We’re all good friends. The spirit of competition makes it a good time.”

Egly eagerly awaits this season, even if it is in the spring and also shortened to six games.

“Man, I just want to play,” he said. “I never had a problem with motivation. I just love football, it’s my favorite time. Whenever I get to play I’m happy I’m out there.”

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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