RENO MESSLER had to watch from the sidelines for an entire season. But the wait may prove well worth it.
Messler, an offensive lineman at Jackson County from 2009-2012, signed with West Georgia in February 2013 but took a red shirt year at the Division II school this past fall to get stronger and hone his game.
“Actually, it was pretty nice being red shirted,” Messler said. “I got to learn the program. I got a lot stronger. Our strength and conditioning coach is great. Being on the sideline and just getting to know all the other guys, it helped me grow a lot.”
It’s all part of Messler’s progression from a standout lineman in high school to a possible starter at the collegiate level in 2014. West Georgia coaches believe the 6-6, 310-pounder has plenty of potential.
“Reno is obviously a big kid that’s really gotten stronger in the weight room and worked hard … he had a good spring,” said head coach Will Hall, who is in his first year at West Georgia. “He’s got four more years to play. We hope that he’s going to continue to get stronger and develop into a guy that can be a starter in this league.”
Messler certainly developed into a quality lineman during his prep career. He started for three years along the offensive line and was a member of Jackson County’s 2012 squad that broke a 20-year playoff drought.
After earning all-state honorable mention honors as a high school senior, Messler spent last year biding his time as a college freshman and getting used to life on the 11,000-student campus in Carrollton.
“It’s a smaller college so we all really come together as a family,” Messler said. We’d be doing something together like every week … It’s a really good family unit thing going on.”
Always a sizable player in high school, Messler said he’s “a lot better now,” especially in the quickness department. He said he’s reacting much faster and moving much better, noting that a college lineman can’t just rely on size and strength.
“Because being strong is one thing, but in college you have to have strength and be able to move quick,” he said. “Otherwise, you’re not going to be able to react to what the other guy is doing.”
Messler, who was a three-sport athlete in high school, has impressed West Georgia offensive coordinator Sam Gregg with his athleticism.
“He’s a big kid that can really move, so we’re pretty excited about having him,” said Gregg, who coached at West Alabama before arriving at West Georgia. “At West Alabama we didn’t have kids that are his size that can do some of the things he’s doing.”
Messler has gotten stronger in the weight room, but he must get considerably stronger to elevate his play to another level according to Gregg, who points out that Messler “is still just a pup.”
“When he figures out what he can do once he gets strong and can really move his feet and hands and just really hit people, I think he’ll get better and better and better,” Gregg said.
With four years of eligibility left, Messler is focused on earning a starting spot for the Wolves this season in Hall’s offense, which combines pro style elements with those of the spread.
Specifically, Messler is competing for the starting nod at left tackle, where he practiced last season while being red shirted. Messler finished the spring working with the first-team unit, but both Hall and Gregg said competition for starting spots will be heated come fall camp with additional players arriving.
Messler hopes he has a little advantage, having gone through spring practice.
“I think I have a little bit of an upper hand just because I was there all spring,” he said. “I already know our system and I’ve had a chance to work with our coach a little bit more. I think my chances are pretty good.”
Both Hall and Gregg are excited about Messler’s future.
“We told Reno this: we think the sky is the limit as far as his size and his ability,” Hall said. “It’s how good does he want to be? … I think he could be a really, really good player.”
Waiting in the wings: Former JCCHS lineman vying for starting spot at West Georgia following red shirt year
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