While walking through the Nutter Center, if Patrick Towles or Drew Barker overhear an offensive lineman say they are hungry and don’t immediately produce cheeseburgers, then they are doing it wrong. Outside of my family, offensive linemen have always been my favorite people. Smarter than their on-line defensive counterparts (head nod to Zipp and Billy Joe), offensive linemen are a genetic anomaly of girth and brains. OL gets very little credit and too much blame. Following are situations from 2014 I’ll use to make my point.
Example one: RB received hand-off and proceeded on an incorrect path toward the line of scrimmage. The offensive line had correctly executed their assignments and a hole existed, but instead the back ran towards traffic. The play resulted in negative yards. Talking heads described the play as an offensive line disaster.
Example two: QB was pressured by defensive linemen after tight end was slow to route, RB missed blitz pick-up blocking responsibilities, and receivers struggled to release into pattern. Result was a sack. Critics blistered OL Coach John Schlarman’s group.
In no way am I saying the unit was perfect in execution, nor am I saying there isn’t tremendous room for improvement, because there is. What I’m trying to communicate is that football is an 11-man operation and negative plays aren’t always the sole fault of those who take the brunt of the bashing.
This upcoming season I’ll try my best to break down the breakdowns and translate into fan talk. Just remember, football is much different than basketball. Three consecutive four-yard plays moves the chains. My perspective may be a little different. So here’s my favorite folks positional overview and projected starters:
Right Tackle (RT) There are major differences in the right and left tackle positions. Right tackles are often run block experts while remaining adept in mandatory pass blocking duties. Tackles are not automatically inter-changeable. Of the two tackle positions, the RT is the blue collar worker while the blind side savior (left tackle) is more likely for NFL millions. On top of mandatory offensive linemen duties, RT’s excel in blocking second level defenders (LB’s) and release from the line of scrimmage to down-field block for various screen plays. Typically, right tackles are 6’4 plus and 300 pounds is a minimum. Mandatory traits are upper body strength, agility, strong hands, and long arms.
Projected starter: Open competition going into fall camp. Competing are: George Asafo-Adjei 6’5 315 Freshman, Kyle Meadows 6’5 290 Sophomore, and Cole Mosier 6’6 344 Sophomore.
Left Tackle (LT) Left Tackles are the offensive line pass block specialists that weekly faces the opposing team’s best pass rusher. These occurrences are one on one blocking which requires as much guts as skill. This is the group’s glory position with NFL teams investing millions into tackles that can protect the blind side of its most valued commodity, the quarterback. LT’s are taller athletes with required long arms to reach speed rushers coming off the edge but also must retain upper body strength to guard against the bull rush. Bull rush is a term used when the defender’s path to the QB is directly over the offensive lineman so the violent collision is often face mask to face mask. If this position is consistently unsuccessful, offenses struggle and quarterbacks go the hospital. Typical left tackles range from 6’5-6’9 and 290-320 pounds and are difficult to find in the recruiting process.
Projected starter: Jordan Swindle 6’7 310 Senior
Right Guard (RG), Left Guard (LG) One word can describe an effective offensive guard, brawler. A physical and on-field violent position, G’s require short burst speed combined with a heavy punch. Too much coach speak there, punch means while coming out of his stance the guard extends his arms to initiate contact with a defender to control movement. Athletic ability is a plus but not mandatory. Explosive power is imperative. One job requirement that requires athletic ability is when the guard pulls around the center to lead block. If you’re imagining a prototypical G, then your UK history knowledge can be recent. Former Cat Larry Warford is now considered one the NFL’s best at his position. Physical traits vary with preferable height being 6’2 300 pounds with the strength to bench press a Prius.
Projected starters: RG Ramsey Meyers 6’4 325 Sophomore, LG Zack West 6’4 312 Senior or Nick Haynes 6’3 330 Sophomore.
Center (C) Center, where brains meet brawn. During games you may wonder what or who the center is pointing at prior to the snap. Generally he is designating which defender is identified as the Mike or middle linebacker. By doing this, he declares defensive strength which directs pass protection and run blocking adjustments. In simpler terms, centers tell fellow offensive linemen who to block. I’ve always admired this position. The pressured lineman has to make line calls as previously discussed then snap the football to the quarterback all while having a 350 nose guard breathing down his neck. Scary and demanding obligation that combines physical attributes of an offensive guard and tackle. Preferred height is 6’2 plus, weight varies but 285-310 likely.
Projected starter: My 2014 Offensive MVP Jon Toth 6’5 300 Junior
Closer to the season I’ll post a player by player overview. Thanks for reading.