Knudsen a dominant force
Panthers host Rogers on Friday
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.”
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.
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.