Ethan Ruhland and Blake Treadwell still developing as battle for starting center position continues

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The offensive line is the biggest question mark for the 2011 Spartan Football team.  Photo courtesy of Starr Portice.

The offensive line is the biggest question mark for the 2011 Spartan Football team. Photo courtesy of Starr Portice.



Juniors Ethan Ruhland and Blake Treadwell have a friendship both on and off the field. However, things are a little different this offseason considering that both are fighting with one another for the starting spot at center.


Treadwell is a converted nose tackle, using his line skills on the offensive end for the first time in a Spartans uniform. Ruhland was listed as an offensive guard last season. Both are being moved around a little by the coaching staff due to the graduation of last year’s center John Stipek, and Treadwell has had the bigger load to bare overall going from the defensive side of the ball to snapping to quarterback Kirk Cousins.


“We’re trying to get as many snaps as possible because Blake isn’t a center until this season (began), so we’ve got to teach him and work with him on all the nuances of the center position,” Cousins said. “Plays don’t work if you don’t get the snap from center, so it’s very important to have fundamentals fixed, first and foremost.


“Ethan is a guy who I haven’t gotten snaps with in a while because I was working with John Stipek for so long and (Joel) Nitchman before that. So, we’ve got some chemistry to build and that’s what spring ball is for. But what I like about those guys is how hard they work, their attitude and the way they are coachable, the way they want to fight for reps and stay after practice. When you have guys like that, you’re gonna have success,” he said.


With spring ball about a third of the way through in terms of practice time, strides are trying to be met by both competitors. It won’t be a battle that will be decided any time soon, especially considering the caliber of player each guy is and the type of work ethic they are laying out on the line to continue the string of good centers under head coach Mark Dantonio.


“What (the coaches) have done is try to install things, so now we’re getting to the point where (Blake and Ethan) have to do it alone out on the field,” said Dantonio, who clarified that nobody has a distinct advantage over the other at this point. “The three big scrimmages that we have will give some type of indication (on who will be the standout at the position).”


The players, along with freshman Travis Jackson, are all competing hard and playing well. Cousins said that is all a player can ask for at this time of year, especially the team’s starting quarterback.


“Any time you have teammates in general who are gonna work brings joy to my heart, but the center position is a position you have to rely on as a quarterback. … Protections and calls and fronts and all that, (centers) are the quarterback of the offensive line,” Cousins said. “They have to be able to identify things and communicate between me and of the offensive line, so it’s important we are on the same page. We’re not where we want to be yet, but that’s to be expected in the fifth practice of spring ball. We’ll get there, and that’s why we have 15 practices.”


Cousins made sure to say that there is no feeling of being immediate with a decision of who will snap the ball once the real season begins, saying that it’s important to see where each player will take the position once spring practices conclude.


“We need to make sure these guys get as many reps as possible. We need to be patient and let those guys develop (and that includes Travis Jackson), and I don’t think there’s any rush until maybe even the week before the first game. As long as we build some chemistry we will be alright,” he said.


It is definitely a position battle to keep your eyes on as the spring continues.