By Teddy Rydquist
Leader Staff Writer
Second-year head football coach Zach Line has made two additions to his staff, adding Eric Ghiaciuc as a volunteer working with the offensive line and Brandon Groedl as his tight ends coach.
Ghiaciuc, a 2000 Oxford High School graduate, played three seasons of varsity football for Bud Rowley and was a state champion wrestler as a senior. Following his graduation, he continued his football career at the collegiate level, playing for the Central Michigan Chippewas in the Mid-American Conference (MAC) under head coaches Mike DeBord and Brian Kelly from 2000-04.
Starting his final 37 games in Mount Pleasant, Ghiaciuc was selected by the Cincinnati Bengals in the fourth-round (No. 119 overall) of the 2005 National Football League Draft and spent six seasons at the highest level, also playing for the then-San Diego Chargers and Miami Dolphins.
His addition gives Oxford the unique distinction of having three coaches/volunteers with NFL experience, joining Line and special teams coordinator/offensive assistant Dave Rayner.
While the Wildcats were a member of the Flint Metro League (FML) during his time in high school, Ghiaciuc is familiar with the Oakland Activities Association (OAA) Red Division, as he spent the last seven seasons on Chris Bell and John Blackstock’s staffs with the Lake Orion Dragons.
“I reached out to him when I first got the job here, but he was committed to Lake Orion. I think it just kind of marinated and, eventually, Oxford worked him over,” Line said.
“We’re fortunate to have him. So far, he’s done a good job, it’s nice to have another coach who jumps in, asks questions, and helps out, and, obviously, he has a lot of knowledge, so, we’ll put our heads together on certain things, it’ll be good.
“He has experience, not only as a player, but from being a coach at Lake Orion for a while, so I think he’s going to bring some perspective to us as a staff and to the players. I can tell already he’s going to bring a toughness to the offensive line, along with scheme because scheme is going to go a long way, but if you can combine that with his knowledge of using certain sayings to make things easier because at the professional level, even college kids, that’s a full-time job, everything you do is around that. He does a good job of understanding school, outside of football, they (the student-athletes) have a lot going on.
“I presented him with our run schemes, and he found ways to simplify wording for some of it, allow guys to play quicker. That’s all we want to do, just play fast.”
When speaking to Ghiaciuc, it was apparent he is looking forward to this opportunity to help benefit his hometown.
“I’m pretty excited about it,” he began. “I never said I’d never go back (to Oxford), I just didn’t see myself coming back this quickly. But now that I’m here, I’m really fired up about it, I’m really excited to be back.
“It’s funny, you walk in the building, and you just feel like you know everybody. And the ones you haven’t met, in five minutes, you feel like you’ve known them for a long time. Now, I’m coaching in a spot where I see my old football pictures, or I see the trophies I took part in, just little things like that, it’s really neat.
“It’s cool, it’s neat. It’s a lot more special, it’s a lot neater than I realized until I walked back in for more than just visiting because I hadn’t really been in the high school, unless Lake Orion was there, for years. I always thought it would be cool to come back, but I didn’t realize how cool or how excited I’d be until I got there.
“Working with Zach (Line) is cool because with our football experience, we’re speaking the same language. We’ve had a lot of the same experiences, to a certain extent, and when you love the game of football the way you do, you can only avoid it for so long until you have to get back.”
Line’s other new coach, Groedl, is an Oxford alumnus, as well, graduating in 2019.
Groedl spent the 2019 season as the team statistician under Rowley and began his foray into on-field coaching in 2020, serving as the offensive and defensive line coach for the freshman team and helped with the offensive play-calling, too.
His brother, Nathan, is currently a senior and played cornerback for the Wildcats during Line’s first season at the helm.
Currently, the football program is holding voluntary weightlifting sessions until official team practices begin in the summer. Many of the student-athletes participate in a winter sport, such as basketball or wrestling, and several also play a spring sport, like baseball or track and field, keeping them busy year-round.
Oxford wrapped up their first season under Line at 2-5 (1-3 OAA Red), earning victories over the L’Anse Creuse North Crusaders and Oak Park Knights on September 18 and October 2, respectively.
The team will reside in the OAA Red again in 2021, where they are expected to be joined by the same five teams, the Clarkston Wolves, Lake Orion, Oak Park, Southfield A&T Warriors, and West Bloomfield Lakers.
By Teddy Rydquist