Among the many artifacts in Muskegon head coach Shane Fairfield’s office hangs a special picture: the Big Reds offensive line sitting on a bulldozer. And just like a bulldozer, the 2012 Muskegon O-Line has paved the way for its team, all the way to Ford Field.
The Big Reds are averaging 400 yards rushing a game. They’ve had many 100-yard rushers, including a breakout year for All-Lake fullback John King. They’ve had thrilling plays from quarterback Jalen Smith. But, the players you rarely read about in the paper or watch on the highlights are the ones who make it possible: the Big Reds offensive line.
These guys are nasty and for our money, the best offensive line in the state. Week in and week out, the Big Reds offensive line has provided the consistency all great teams search for.
“I couldn’t be prouder of this group of guys,” Fairfield said after Muskegon’s 34-21 semi-final win over Caledonia. “I have no problem giving our offensive line the credit; they’re the reason why we’re here.”
Not only do they play with great technique, but they have a chemistry about them like a great symphony orchestra; everyone is on key.
Offensive line coach, Matt Bolles, has seen this synergy up close and personal. “These five kids are the best offensive line I have ever coached. I had the pleasure of coaching the 2008 State Championship offensive line and those kids were really good, but these five are collectively better.”
They’re also standouts in the classroom; each of the starting five boast a 3.2 or higher grade point average.
As the Big Reds prepare for this weekend’s state championship game against Birmingham Brother Rice, let’s meet the big guys up front:
Antwan Billings RT 6-4 275 SR
Billings is the most physical lineman for the Big Reds; he’s just plain nasty. The offensive tackle plays the game with great passion and a motor that never quits. He has 70+ pancake blocks on the season and has not allowed a single sack. He’s also a gem in the classroom, ranking in the Top 10 of his class with a 3.9 GPA. Billings is currently being recruited by many of the GLIAC schools, and has potential to get a late MAC offer.
Chandar Ricks LT 6-4 290 SR
The biggest member of the Big Reds OL may also be the most underrated. Physical, tenacious, and smart, Ricks has protected QB Jalen Smith’s blindside well. Like Billings, Ricks has not given up a sack this year. He’s very strong (330 lb bench/450 lb squat) and also carries a 3.2 GPA. He’s being recruited mostly by Division 2 schools, but has visited Northwestern.
Quincy Crosby C 6-3 290 SR
Put in the game film from when Muskegon faced Orchard Lake St. Mary’s earlier this season, and Crosby gives a clinic on how to play Center. Playing with good pad level and the ability to finish blocks with the best, Crosby has tallied 62 pancake blocks and zero sacks on the year. He is not only the leader of the Big Reds line, but of the whole team. He is being recruited by Division 2 schools and has an offer from Ferris State. He has also visited Harvard, and carries a 3.7 GPA.
Noah Tozer G 6-1 275 SR
What Tozer lacks in height, he makes up for with his passion and tenacity for the game. After transferring to Muskegon in the middle of his sophomore year, Tozer has made big gains over the last two years. A very physical interior lineman, Tozer has great strength (335 lb bench, 500 lb squat). He’s a versatile player that also plays back-up Center when needed. Tozer is drawing interest from both Division 2 and Division 3 schools, and carries a 3.2 GPA.
Malik King G 6-4 275 JR
The only non-senior in the starting five, King’s development has been a delightful surprise for the Big Reds. Only 15 years old, the Jamaican-born King plays with the highest motor on his offensive line. He’s a great athlete with the ability to run side-by-side with skill players while blocking downfield. He’s aggressive and loves to “flatback” opposing defensive linemen. With 41 pancakes on the year, King has given up only 1 sack. His freakish athleticism and on- and off-field smarts (3.6 GPA) are a draw for BCS schools like Iowa, Wisconsin, TCU, ECU, Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana, Illinois, Baylor, Florida, and Ohio State. As his frame fills out, he could move to tackle at the next level.
This is a great piece of sports journalism recognizing the unsung heros of the State Bound Muskegon Big Reds. These young men are talented smart and seemingly ambicious which are very rare qualities in Highschool athletics. As a class of 82 alum and former Big Red football player, it warms my heart to see the 2012 Big Red team reach it to Ford Field. Go Big Reds