This is the fourth in a series of positional previews for Carroll College, a run of stories that will run through the team's season opener Aug. 31 at Montana Tech.
Led by a first-team all-conference tackle, Carroll’s expecting a step forward from the offensive line this season.
Chris Emter, the 6-foot-4, 302-pound right tackle out of Livingston will be back on the line for the Saints as he enters his senior season. Emter, who also is a standout in track and field season as a shot putter, starts for his fourth consecutive season. The Saints are expecting Emter to take another step forward and embark on an All-American type of season.
Perhaps the heart and soul of the offense, Joel Kramer also returns for another season starting at center. Kramer has been called the leader of the offensive line for the last few seasons, as his work ethic -- he walked on at Carroll as a freshman out of Missoula Hellgate, earned a scholarship and became a team captain -- has. Last season, Saints coach Mike Van Diest called Kramer a comfort for then-starting quarterback JT Linder. The Saints know they can rely on the pre-med major to bring a cohesiveness to four other linemen on any given play.
The other returning starter is junior Willy Clements, the guard out of Colorado. The 6-foot-3, 295-pound Clements is a three-year starter and has added responsibility this season. Clements doesn’t only have to corral powerful tackles and ends each Saturday, but he has to ensure Saints left tackle David Barnett is comfortable in his new role.
Barnett moved to the offensive line after a few seasons playing defensive end. Barnett bulked up, moving up to 280 pounds on his 6-foot-3 frame. Barnett transitioned last spring, playing tackle in scrimmages all the way up to this game week. After a college football career of harassing tackles -- and snapping -- Barnett will do his part in slowing opposing pass rushers.
The graduation of Tyson Budler and Brandon Vedder opened another starting role up, which Todd Pays claimed. The 6-foot-4, 290-pound right guard out of Sandpoint, Idaho, will be a senior starter. Todd’s twin brother Tim figures to see a lot of spot duty this season, too. Tim Pays is listed as the backup right tackle entering Week 1.
Tanner Steele, the freshman out of Lynden, Washington, cracked the two-deep in his short stint with the Saints so far. The 6-foot-4, 255-pound Steele is currently slated to back up Clements at the right guard spot.
All of the new faces and incumbents will have a large task at hand this season. Carroll’s rushing attack finished last season ranked fifth in the Frontier Conference, averaging 122 yards per game. The unit also gave up 2.5 sacks per game, which was fifth in the conference, and 24.5 sacks overall.
The offensive line will be tested immediately on Thursday against Montana Tech. The Orediggers return seven of their top eight defensive linemen from a season ago, a unit that allowed a conference-best 19.2 points per game.