Albany State head football coach Mike White doesn't hesitate when asked what area of his team he is most excited about this season.
"Definitely our offensive line," White said. "I think we needed the biggest improvement there and they will be much improved from last year."
The O-line, which White said was "horrible" last season, has made it tough for Rams quarterbacks and the running backs to get their game rolling in recent years.
But no longer -- thanks largely to the guy they call "Big Mike."
In addition to the new faces on the line this year, junior Michael "Big Mike" Mavromichalis made the move from tackle to center. And Mavromichalis, at 6-foot-6, 330 pounds, is just fine with the added responsibility.
"It's just really a mental adjustment," said Mavromichalis, one of the only offensive lineman named to the Preseason All-SIAC team. "You have to be the guy that knows about the whole blocking scheme for the whole O-line. We've been working hard. We got some good boys in, some transfers, and the O-line should be greatly improved."
White, a former lineman himself, has already noticed a difference with Mavromichalis acting as field general for the front five.
"Mike is a very intelligent player," White said. "I think he's the leader of that bunch there. I think they're going to be in good hands with him making blocking decisions and leading them. No question about it; I'm proud of the improvement from last season."
Offensive coordinator Steve Smith agreed, saying Mavromichalis is perfect for the job.
"He (should be) able to run what we're doing (without a problem)," Smith said. "He's just like a normal center. Most centers I've seen set the offense, call the defense, do all that stuff. He's one of the guys to guard the quarterback and protect them, too."
Added quarterback Stanley Jennings: "All (the members of the offensive line) are young and don't have experience really, but we have a pretty good center. He's a leader for the line. He's like Peyton Manning on the field-- he makes all the calls."
That inspires confidence from everyone on the offensive side of the ball and means the quarterbacks and running backs can focus on making their plays, not who's protecting them.
"We have a balanced offense and a good O-line," Jennings said. "It's a nice change (from last season)."
You don't have to tell that to quarterbacks coach Uyl Joyner, who was pained at times last year watching his quarterback and backfield scramble for their lives.
"(The) O-line is probably the best it's been in a couple of years," Joyner said.