Knud­sen a dom­i­nant force

Pan­thers host Rogers on Fri­day

Siloam Springs Herald Leader - - FRONT PAGE - By Gra­ham Thomas Staff Writer gth­omas@nwadg.com ■

There’s usu­ally sev­eral odds and ends to deal with on the first day of foot­ball prac­tice.

At the end of prac­tice on July 31, Siloam Springs’ foot­ball play­ers took a knee around head coach Bryan Ross as he and the coaches went over the list of play­ers who had ex­tra run­ning to do that day be­cause they didn’t make all 18 of the re­quired work­outs in the sum­mer.

The list of play­ers who made the re­quired 18 work­outs was read aloud to much ap­plause.

And then Ross, in his ninth sea­son with the

Pan­thers, asked se­nior

Isaac Knud­sen to stand be­fore his team­mates.

“This man right here made ev­ery sin­gle avail­able work­out this sum­mer,” Ross said with ad­mi­ra­tion. “I don’t need any more proof and val­i­da­tion that he’s com­mit­ted to this team.”

In­deed, Knud­sen (6foot-2, 241 pounds) had at­tended all 25 avail­able work­outs for the sum­mer con­di­tion­ing pro­gram, the only Pan­ther to do so.

“I hope it val­i­dated him and I hope it showed the other guys kind of what the ex­pec­ta­tions are,” Ross said. “I mean, that’s pretty im­pres­sive to make ev­ery work­out. You only had to make a cer­tain num­ber, but he chose to be here ev­ery day.”

Knud­sen’s re­ward for his hard work should show up at 7 p.m. Fri­day when he puts on his ma­roon No. 59 jersey and takes the field at Pan­ther Sta­dium when Siloam Springs hosts Rogers in both teams’ sea­son opener.

“I’m just try­ing to get bet­ter ev­ery day,” Knud­sen

I hope it val­i­dated him and I hope it showed the other guys kind of what the ex­pec­ta­tions are. I mean, that’s pretty im­pres­sive to make ev­ery work­out. You only had to make a cer­tain num­ber, but he chose to be here ev­ery day.

Bryan Ross SSHS head foot­ball coach on rec­og­niz­ing se­nior line­man Isaac Knud­sen for his ded­i­ca­tion over the sum­mer

said. “Just like Coach Ross says, we’ve got to get one per­cent bet­ter ev­ery day, so we can­not have a sea­son like last year.”

The Pan­thers are com­ing off a mis­er­able 1-9 sea­son in 2016, in which they lost their fi­nal six games of the year and missed the Class 6A play­offs for the sec­ond straight year.

That mem­ory was a driv­ing force all off­sea­son for Knud­sen. It’s why he set his alarm ev­ery day at 6:30 a.m. in the sum­mer to make the 7:30 a.m. work­out on time. If you’re late it doesn’t count.

“That’s an im­pres­sive work ethic,” Ross said, adding that Knud­sen’s off­sea­son and sum­mer suc­cess have spilled over into fall camp. “So far in the three weeks we’ve had in the pre­sea­son he’s been lights out. He’s re­ally play­ing well.”

Knud­sen said the hard work put in dur­ing the off­sea­son and sum­mer is pay­ing off.

“I see my­self dif­fer­ently than I did last year,” Knud­sen said. “I feel like I’m a dif­fer­ent player this year.”

Knud­sen’s strong sum­mer is only the tip of the ice­berg when it comes to his de­vel­op­ment as a foot­ball player. The Pan­thers will be lean­ing on Knud­sen to play both ways on the of­fen­sive and de­fen­sive lines.

Ross said it’s hard to pin­point where the Pan­thers need Knud­sen most.

“Man, I think he’s just a foot­ball player,” Ross said. “Ei­ther place he gets after it. It’s hard to say. We love his in­ten­sity. We like his mo­tor. He’s go­ing to go hard no mat­ter what. He’s just got that men­tal­ity that you love to have in your kids.”

Of­fen­sively, Knud­sen will line up at right guard to start the sea­son, but it’s likely he can play any po­si­tion on the line.

Ac­cord­ing to of­fen­sive line coach Jonathan John­son, more than half of the of­fen­sive plays the Pan­thers run are gap scheme, which re­lies heav­ily on pulling guards in some di­rec­tion at all times.

Be­cause of his speed and strength, Knud­sen is an ideal fit for that guard spot.

“So we’ve got (Knud­sen) in a spot where we can try and get him in front of the foot­ball on the move,” John­son said.

John­son said Knud­sen has come a long way in two years on the var­sity team.

“He’s a kid that we’ve talked about a cou­ple of years now, say­ing phys­i­cally he’s got some­thing about him,” John­son said. “It was just a mat­ter of get­ting him­self co­or­di­nated into his body and learn­ing where he needed to fit among every­body else. I think you can prob­a­bly ask any­body that’s worked with him, that’s been the big dif­fer­ence with him from last year to now.

“Some of that’s been there, but now he’s ty­ing it all to­gether. Now the tempo which he’s play­ing at has re­ally gone up a notch.”

On the de­fen­sive side of the ball, Knud­sen has been work­ing at all three of the Pan­thers’ de­fen­sive line­men spots, ac­cord­ing to de­fen­sive line coach and co-de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Dwain Pip­pin.

“He’s do­ing a great job,” Pip­pin said. “When you turn the film on, Isaac is play­ing faster than any­one else up front. He’s us­ing his hands great. He’s play­ing with a sense of ur­gency.”

Be­cause of in­juries and a lack of depth on the de­fen­sive line, Pip­pin said it’s been a ne­ces­sity to have Knud­sen work all the way across the line. The Pan­thers are with­out se­nior de­fen­sive line­man Kameron Green­lee to open the sea­son after a fire­works ac­ci­dent in early Au­gust. Also, ju­nior Corbin Collins will be a two-way starter on both lines just like Knud­sen.

“I’m try­ing to ro­tate peo­ple around a lit­tle bit and get some ex­pe­ri­ence, try­ing to build a lit­tle bit of depth,” Pip­pin said. “We all know Isaac’s go­ing to need to play of­fense too as is Corbin (Collins).”

Pip­pin said Knud­sen al­most al­ways plays with good tech­nique, though he oc­ca­sion­ally might play too high or not step with the right foot.

“When he plays with good tech­nique and his mo­tor’s run­ning, we don’t have any­body that can con­sis­tently block him,” Pip­pin said. “He’s fun to watch.”

And Pip­pin added that if a line­man is able to suc­cess­fully block Knud­sen, he’s not go­ing to block him for long.

“If he’s bound and de­ter­mined to get to the foot­ball, he’s go­ing to get to the foot­ball,” Pip­pin said.

One area of im­prove­ment Knud­sen has made on the de­fen­sive line is learn­ing how to get off the block faster, ac­cord­ing to both Ross and Pip­pin.

Pip­pin said hav­ing to go against ju­nior cen­ter Dil­lon Conn (5-10, 185) has helped in that area.

“There’s been a time or two that he’s got­ten a chal­lenge from Dil­lon Conn, who’s not the most phys­i­cal of spec­i­mens, but Dil­lon’s got some dog in him,” Pip­pin said. “Boy, once Dil­lon puts his hands on you, he ain’t let­ting go. Be­cause of that, I think Isaac and some of the other D-line­men are learn­ing, when you de­cide it’s time to get off the block, you bet­ter be vi­o­lent with your hands be­cause if you’re not and you’re slow and lazy try­ing to get off the block, even a guy Dil­lon Conn’s size can wear you out.”

Knud­sen agreed it’s all about be­ing vi­o­lent at the point of at­tack with his hands on both of­fense and de­fense.

“You’ve got to be able to shed him off,” Knud­sen said. “You don’t want him to be able to get his hands on you be­cause then you’ll be eas­ier to block on de­fense. On of­fense if you get your hands on them, they can’t re­ally do any­thing. Just try to hit them hard.”

Knud­sen’s coaches also say that the se­nior line­man is show­ing good lead­er­ship qual­i­ties to his younger team­mates.

“Isaac’s done a great job for us,” Pip­pin said. “He’s try­ing to help those younger guys along, which speaks highly of his char­ac­ter.”

Bud Sullins/Spe­cial to the Her­ald-Leader

Siloam Springs se­nior line­man Isaac Knud­sen has made vast im­prove­ments from his ju­nior year to his se­nior year. Knud­sen is a starter on both the of­fen­sive and de­fen­sive lines for the Pan­thers. Siloam Springs opens its sea­son at 7 p.m. Fri­day at home against Rogers.

Bud Sullins/Spe­cial to the Her­ald-Leader

Siloam Springs se­nior line­man Isaac Knud­sen fights off Pea Ridge se­nior Kenny Dorsey dur­ing the Pan­thers’ scrim­mage with the Black­hawks last Tues­day in Pea Ridge. Siloam Springs hosts Rogers at 7 p.m. Fri­day at Pan­ther Sta­dium.

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