SPRINGFIELD — Former Lebanon High School standout Justin Breedlove has found a home at a new position for the Evangel Crusaders.
For now at least.
After starting at tackle for Lebanon as a senior in 2011, Breedlove has twice started for the Evangel Crusaders at tight end as a true freshman.
Evangel head coach Brett Illum says he anticipates Breedlove will eventually move back to the line, a position he might be suited for as he grows older and continues to gain weight.
But for now, Breedlove, 6-foot-2, 250-pounds, has emerged at a new position, despite missing considerable time during his senior year due to a knee injury.
Breedlove returned in time to compete in the spring for the LHS baseball team and says he is at full strenghth now.
“My knee feels great and nothing is bothering me there,” Breedlove said.
In his third season at Evangel, Illum has the Crusaders off to a 3-2 start. The Crusaders are coming off a 54-44 win over No. 6 ranked Benedictine on Saturday.
Among the Crusaders pair of losses was a trip to Nicholls State in Thibodaux, La. — and NCAA Division I-AA school.
“The tempo and speed of the game has been the hardest adjustment from high school to college,” Breedlove said.
Breedlove said the transition hasn’t come without some work.
“It is about the same as playing on the line, but I get to catch a pass every once in awhile,” he said. “It’s a lot of work and a lot of knowing the pass plays and blocking assignments.”
Breedlove said the toughest part of learning the new position has been digesting a college playbook.
“We have a pretty thick playbook and I have to know both sides (of the line),” Breedlove said. “It’s a lot to remember but I think I’m picking it up pretty well.
“It’s been hard and I have to study the playbook a lot but it’s been fun.”
Breedlove is just one of several Lebanon linemen to work their way into the starting line-up at various colleges in recent years. The ‘Jackets also have former linemen Justin Britt (Missouri), Zack Cooley (Missouri State), Dave Stewart (Missouri Valley) all starting on the offensive line at various programs — and all three players saw significant playing time early in their careers.
Illum said he has been impressed with how prepared Breedlove was for college football under LHS head coach Will Christian and the ‘Jackets’ coaching staff. So much so that he has had five additional recruits from Lebanon on campus this season.
“They are awesome coaches (at EU) and will do anything to help me,” Breedlove said. “They are amazing.
“Getting to know all my teammates and making the transition has been the best experience so far.”