Friday, April 19, 2013

Offensive line looks to rebound after forgettable 2012 season

The 2012 season was not the best of times for UConn's offensive line.

UConn was 100th nationally in sacks allowed and 117th in rushing offense a combination that resulted in a disappointing 5-7 final record despite ranking ninth in total defense.

Six offensive linemen who started games last season are back so obviously optimism is high among the returnees as they look to reestablish the line as a dominant unit.

"I think we are going to go up," said senior guard Steve Greene. "I know I am not going to stand for it and all the other guys are with me, we are not going to be the weak point of this team. We are going to be the driving force behind this team that helps us win the game.

It was awful. There is no other word that says it. When you can’t run the ball it makes you so one dimensional and teams can virtually just tee off on you and it makes everything else a lot harder. When you can run the ball you can control the game and that is what we need to be back to. That is what we’ve been preaching and what we’ve been working. We are going to run the football and be successful at it."

Running the ball has been a trademark of recent UConn squads which made what happened last season tough to swallow for players and fans alike.

"It was a collaboration of everything, it wasn’t everybody all the time it was one person having a breakdown," Greene said. "On offense you need 11 guys functioning together or it is not going to work. Right now I feel like we are on that page, we are working real well and you are going to see some results.

"The standard has been set. We know what needs to get done. Really there is nothing left to do but to do it. I know it is a corny saying but that is what it comes down to."

The only returning starter gone is right guard Adam Masters who missed the last three games of the season with an ankle injury. 

"We lose Masters who is a special dude, he is tough to replace but he (got injured) early," Greene said. "Gus (Cruz) came out and got a lot of time so you can say we return the five guys we finished the season with which is going to be huge for us."

A bonus is the return of starting left tackle Jimmy Bennett for a sixth season of eligibility.

"Jimmy is one of my best friends, a great kid and the sky is the limit for him," Greene said. "It is good to see him finally play a full year of football last year and it is going to be good to see what he can do in his second year back. I am excited, we are all excited. We have been working well in the spring without Jimmy and when we gets inserted back into the lineup, I feel like it can only go up."

Bennett has shoulder surgery in December forcing him to miss the entire spring camp. In his place Xavier Hemingway and Dalton Gifford have had an opportunity to take first-team reps at left tackle.

"Jimmy is my right arm, I guess my left arm since he plays on my left side," Greene said. "Me and Jimmy have such a good chemistry out there, we don’t even have to make calls to know what each other is doing. It is huge for them to step in and get this time. I honestly felt they have been doing a great job. Honestly I was a little skeptical coming into the spring having X (Hemingway) on my left, a guy who hasn’t had much experience but he has done a great job. He got hurt, he is down right now and Gifford has stepped up and he has done a great job too."

Not only will Bennett be out of the lineup and Hemingway is iffy as well, but Alex Mateas (who started the first four games at center during the 2012 season) at has been suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules. At the last open practice Tyler Bullock was at center with Cruz and Greene at guard,  Kevin Friend and Gifford at tackle on the first team. The second team featured Kyle Bockeloh at center, Zach Rugg and Tyler Samra at guard with Paul Nwokeji and Richard Levy at tackle.

Parking lots will open at Rentschler Field tomorrow beginning at 9 a.m. with gates set to open at 10:30 a.m. for the spring game which will start at noon. In the wake of the events in Boston security could be tighter than normal. UConn put out a reminder that  that personal bags are not allowed to be brought into events at Rentschler other than bags containing personal medical supplies.

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