The Falcons offensive line has had some issues in the past couple of seasons, which has resulted in a lot of ineffective offensive play. 2022 presented some objectively better play (as shown by the team’s overall results) but it’s still a long way from being solidified.
The two big things we’ll look at in this piece are the sacks allowed, and another key objective that the O-line will need to accomplish for the Falcons to be successful in 2023.
Sacks allowed numbers can be charitably described as abysmal the past two seasons, with 39 in 2021 and 37 in 2022. They’re esecially bad when you compare it to some of the lines of the team’s recent past.
The Falcons hadn’t allowed 30+ sacks in a season since Matt Johnson was quarterback in 2015. One could reasonably ask what the issue is, given the numbers were about the same, but the massive difference was offensive success under Dino Babers’ system. The 2015 Falcons were an offensive juggernaut on offense and won the MAC thanks to a Heisman-adjacent campaign by Johnson. This current team is not near that level yet.
You can even go back to the Mike Jinks era for more context, as the Falcons never gave up more than 30 sacks in his tenure. Even Loeffler’s first year saw only 14 sacks allowed, and those teams (2016-19) were some of the worst in program history. In a perfect world, you want fewer sacks coupled with a deadly passing attack. Will the Falcons be able to figure it out, and get to a good level?
Let’s take a look at some of the personnel change highlights for the Falcons heading into the 2023 season.
- Jakari Robinson (graduation)
Jakari Robinson’s time with the Falcons wasn’t necessarily off to a good start. Robinson had to sit the first three games due to waiting for a transfer waiver from the NCAA. It was quite obvious the Falcons were missing his presence early in the year. Despite missing those games, Robinson still proved to be a solid center once in uniform for BGSU, immediately occupying a starting role.
- Jalen Grant (transfer to Purdue)
Grant was a mainstay for the Falcon line since 2020, playing in 30 career games (27 starts.) Like former Falcon WR Tyrone Broden, Grant will get a chance to play at the Power Five level under coach Ryan Walters at Purdue.
- Armon Bethea (transfer from Arizona State)
While Bethea did not play any games for the Sun Devils on the offensive line, Bowling Green took a chance on this transfer. At six-foot-tfive, 285 pounds, he’ll definitely have some agility being on the leaner side for an offensive lineman. He’ll have more time to develop with three years of eligibility remaining, but it wouldn’t be surprising if Loeffler gives him immediate action.
- Alex Wollschlaeger
Wollschlaeger came out of nowhere to become one of the better tackles on the line. Making 12 of 13 starts, Wollschlaeger took part in 800 plays at right tackle in 2022. Wollschlaeger will look to be the main guy at right tackle once again in 2023. With three years of eligibility left, it may not be unreasonable to expect Wollschlaeger to be one of the best offensive tackles in the MAC down the road.
As head coach Scot Loeffler has preached since the Quick Lane Bowl loss, the Falcons will run the football this year. The Falcons averaged 3.1 yards/rush in 2022, good for second-worst in the MAC, and tied for sixth-worst in all of FBS.
The other objective for the O-Line this year is to get back to basics and create the space needed for the rushing attack. We’ve seen what the running backs can do when they have space. It’s crucial that the O-Line creates those gaps at the line of scrimmage, or that they block the defensive linemen enough for the backs to get outside and gain some yards.
Towards the end of last season, BGSU found a lot of success via the run game, using it to great effect in their upset win over the Toledo Rockets. If they can clinh onto that momentum, they have a chance to change some of those close losses to wins.
Thankfully for BG, they return three starting upperclassmen with plenty of expereince to the fold, including both tackles. That should grant some stablility in the passing game while the interior takes the time to figure itself out.
There’s still a lot to learn about the offensive line, and it should sort itself out during fall camps.
This is the third entry in a series of BGSU football previews. The next piece will focus on the “front seven” (defensive line and linebackers). Please look forward to that! If you missed the second piece, please click here.
BG kicks off their 2023 campaign Saturday, September 2nd at noon ET, as they travel to Lynchburg, Virginia to face off against the Liberty Flames. As of now, the game is slated to be broadcast on CBS Sports Network.