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Progress evident as Dragons offensive line gets stronger

Minnesota State Moorhead offensive linemen Troy Peterson, left, and Kasey Groettum talk during practice Wednesday in Moorhead. Dave Wallis / The Forum

Moorhead - Troy Peterson used a basic analogy to describe the growth of the Minnesota State Moorhead offensive line since he joined the program.

“It would be five little dots in my freshman year and then five bigger dots right now,” said the junior right tackle from Hitterdal, Minn.

Peterson is a prime example of that growth up front for the Dragons. He started for MSUM as a true freshman at around 235 pounds.

“And I wasn’t even the smallest guy on the line,” Peterson added.

Now, he carries a solid 285 pounds on his 6-foot-4 frame.

“He’s one of those weight-room success stories,” said Dragons head coach Steve Laqua, who is starting his fourth season as head coach.

The Dragons open their regular season at 3 p.m. Saturday at Upper Iowa.

Peterson is one of the key cogs on an offensive line that is the most experienced it’s been since Laqua took over the program.

Peterson and left tackle Bennen Bierman (6-1, 282) are both entering their third years as starters. Senior right guard Kasey Groettum (5-11, 265) has started since he was a freshman. Center Lane Puckett (6-3, 253) and left guard Jack Bixler (6-2, 259) are sophomores who both played as freshman.

Junior guard Joseph Bromenshenkel (6-2, 266) is in his fourth season in the program and is also see expected to see time.

“It is a microcosm of what the program has done,” Laqua said of the offensive line maturing.

“It’s the first year we won’t have a freshman coming in and have to play right away since I’ve been here,” said Groettum, who is from Lisbon, N.D. “We actually have the depth now.”

The offensive line started to blossom last fall, helping anchor an offense that scored 31.8 points and averaged 460 yards per game.

“We couldn’t have put the yards up and the points up that we did without the improved line play,” Laqua said.

Despite that offensive success, Peterson feels the offensive line is primed to be better this season.

“We’re going to be ready to roll from the start and kind of have like a different mentality, almost a swagger,” Peterson said. “Even last year … it felt like we were struggling to stay above water sometimes. We were just fighting to survive.”

Peterson gets hyped for games by watching videos of other offensive linemen on his smartphone. Cleveland Browns offensive tackle Joe Thomas is his favorite player to watch.

“I like to watch people who dominate at their position,” Peterson said.

Peterson played tight end and linebacker for Ulen-Hitterdal, which plays 9-man. He was initially projected to play tight end for the Dragons. Peterson, however, quickly switched to the offensive line after he entered the MSUM program.

“You could build on that athleticism with a big frame,” Laqua said of Peterson, who also played basketball in high school. “We found a pretty good lineman.”

Eric Peterson
Peterson covers college athletics for The Forum, including Concordia College and Minnesota State Moorhead. He also covers the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks independent baseball team and helps out with North Dakota State football coverage. Peterson has been working at the newspaper since 1996.

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