Friday, March 06, 2015

UConn spring preview: Offensive line

At this time tomorrow the UConn football team will be making their way to the field for the first of 15 spring practices (with No. 15 being the spring game) so it is a perfect time to wrap up the position by position previews with a look at the offensive line.

No position group has received more scrutiny over the last two or three years than the offensive line.

A year ago things regressed so badly that UConn basically didn't even attempt to throw the ball for long stretches in a loss at South Florida. UConn coach Bob Diaco gave offensive coordinator Mike Cummings more of a hands' on role with the offensive line shortly after the team returned from Tampa. As the season wore on there were signs of progress as the top three rushing games happened in the second half of the season and there were fewer sacks and pressures being allowed when the Huskies did drop back to pass.

The good news is that tackles Richard Levy and Andreas Knappe got plenty of on the job training in their first season as starters. They looked so much more comfortable in the latter portion of the season after both having some issues early on. Dalton Gifford is another tackle with starting experience and with the way injuries tend to occur on the offensive line, depth is extremely important. Thomas Hopkins also saw some time as a redshirt freshman.

A pair of returning starters are back at guard as well. Senior Tyler Samra started all 12 games at right guard while Ryan Crozier moved into a starting role at left guard for the final three games and the Huskies and he is the type of player a line can be built around. Trey Rutherford saw lots of snaps a season ago as a true freshman and seemingly has a bright future while Zach Rugg is a player who could offer depth at guards and perhaps even at center.

Replacing Alex Mateas at center has to be the top offensive line priority during spring. Daniel Oak is a promising prospect who often times worked in as the No. 2 center during practice a season ago even as he redshirted.

"Dan Oak made a lot of progress," Cummings said. "He is a smart player, he is very tough. While he didn't get the game experience, he is a player that we are expecting a lot from. We were able to put him in (practice) and he was able to battle with our defense as a next man in, not as a scout team or look team (center) and he was very aggressive. He did a good job, not a great job but a good job against our nose men which in our league are very difficult to block."

Oak figures to compete with Kyle Bockeloh for the starting spot. While it is never good when there is a lack of experience at the center position considering how many calls on the offensive line are done by the center, Cummings is optimistic that whoever emerges as the starter can get the job done.
Steve Hashemi came in as an offensive line a year ago but was athletic enough that he was moved to tight end because of a lack of depth at that position. Now he is back at offensive line. With some veterans ahead of him at tackle, it's uncertain what role he will have but Cummings likes his potential.

"He has a lot of upside and he is going to develop," Cummings said. "He is only 270 pounds. I saw only 270 but he's going to weight 300 and some pounds. He is a good big athlete who could step in and be able to do the job we asked him to do. "

I hope everybody enjoyed a look at the team over this last week. Here's a breakdown on when the previews were posted

Feb. 28: Quarterbacks
Mar. 1: Defensive line/linebackers
Mar. 2: Running backs
Mar. 3: Wide receivers
Mar. 4: Tight ends
Mar. 5: Defensive backs/special teams


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home