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Center of attention: Genant moves to center for SDSU football

South Dakota State University's Wes Genant (77) blocks Duquesne's Rob Marra (55) as SDSU quarterback Taryn Christion (3) scrambles out of the pocket during a game on Aug. 31, 2017 at Dana J. Dykhouse in Brookings. (Matt Gade / Republic)

BROOKINGS—Football is a science.

At least that's what South Dakota State University head football coach John Stiegelmeier believes. SDSU offensive lineman Wes Genant, a pre-med major, aces "science" classes on the football field the same way he does in the classroom.

The Parkston native played 11 games at right tackle as a true freshman in 2016, then started all 14 games at right guard last season. This year, he moves to center as Stiegelmeier wants his most talented offensive lineman in the most important spot on the line.

"He's a pre-med, 4.0 GPA guy. He understands football, so we think he can handle that, and he's shown he can," Stiegelmeier said. "... More importantly he understands football because football is a science. It's not just throwing a ball around, and it's important to him."

It's no surprise Stiegelmeier praised his offensive lineman's performance in the classroom, especially since he made note of his team's focus on academics in his opening statement at South Dakota State's media day. Genant is the epitome of a student-athlete, being named to an academic all-district first team and the Missouri Valley Football Conference all-academic first team, among others, last season.

"My parents always told me I got football for a limited time, but what's next after that?" Genant said. "I've got to use my brain after, so my parents have always stressed the importance of school on me and I guess that really carried over into college."

Genant will have to use his brain a lot this season when making adjustments on the offensive line and recognizing defenses quickly. However, after a couple of years playing as a nomad on the offensive line, he's exactly where he wants to be.

"I like center, but I'll play wherever the team needs me to play," Genant said, when asked where he prefers to play on the O-line. "(I enjoy) the leadership role that comes with it. Being in charge of the O-line and being a leader up front."

Without playing a collegiate game at center, Stiegelmeier has already seen Genant attack the leadership role by being the most vocal player on the line and helping coach younger players between his reps. SDSU's offensive line has varying levels of starting experience.

However, if you ask Genant about being a leader, he gives all the credit to the seniors and former SDSU center Jacob Ohnesorge.

"(The seniors have) been here for a while and worked really hard, but I really looked up to Jacob Ohnesorge, who was the center before me," Genant said. "He was the picture of what a leader should be and how he should act, so I'm kind of trying to learn from what he did here."

Along with being a leader, Genant prides himself on being able to play anywhere on the offensive line, though he won't have to this season. Despite Genant's versatility, Stiegelmeier said SDSU won't move him from center this season.

While sticking at one position this season, Genant hopes to improve his run blocking. Stiegelmeier is confident in Genant's work ethic, calling him a "technician" and saying "when you tell him something, he tries his hardest to master it. Really tries to make it a motor program in his body."

Genant's solution to improving is simple.

"Work hard. That's all there is to it," Genant said. "There's a lot of hard work, and life will take you where you need to be."