Thursday, March 11, 2010

Spring Practice Outlook: the Offensive Line....

If I told you that this year's offense has a chance to be better than last year's ACC championship team you'd probably ask if I'd been up with Frank all night smoking peyote again. The answer is no, that's tonight's agenda as today is Frank's birthday. Felicitations, sir, & I'll see you in the sweat lodge for a hallucinogenic evening later. If Hunter S. Thompson were alive he's be proud! But I digress. I was postulating that our offense this season could be better than last year. I know we lost Dwyer but frankly, while a great player, I see him as replaceable, especially with Anthony Allen & Charles Perkins on board (yes, my expectations for Perkins are extremely high). Harder to replace will be BayBay Thomas & his big play ability. Hopefully Stephen Hill & others can step in & fill that void.
But my main basis for optimism about this year's offense is the improvement I expect to see in our offensive line. The offensive line is the heart & soul of any offense. This is where everything, both good or bad, begins. A good offensive line is the single defining characteristic of every great offense, whether it be passing or running oriented. I could go on but you get the point. So how & why will we be better in 2010 than last season, particularly after losing three starters (Howard, Gilbert, & Sellers)?
Well, we'll have better players, that's the main improvement. The coaching staff chose not to burn redshirts of a couple players that most likely would have contributed last year, giving them more time to learn the offense. Couple that that with the experience gained by those who played last year & you have what I expect will be an improved offensive line in 2010. Spring practice will be a key time for this unit to learn & gel. Here are the player's in the offensive line mix for 2010. We'll go by position:

Sean Bedford will be counted on heavily for veteran leadership in 2010.....
  • Center: Sean Bedford (6'1", 285) returns to anchor the offensive line after an ALL-ACC campaign in 2009. He's an AE major (aeronautical engineering, for those not down with slang) so we know he's 1) crazy, & 2) really, really smart. Thus understanding our offense isn't really that much of an issue. While not the most physically imposing lineman, Bedford plays with good technique & great leverage, allowing him to block physically superior defenders. In short, Bedford is the rock this year's line will be built around. Redshirt freshman Ray Beno (6'1", 295) will back up Bedford & might also play some guard. Beno is a mauler who in time will inherit the center position & we expect him to have a significant impact along the line, whether this year or next. Zach Fraysier (RS freshman/ 6'3", 285) is 3rd on the depth chart.
#62 Omoregie Uzzi is poised for a breakout season in 2010.....
  • Guard: things might appear weak at guard after losing both our starting guards from last season, All-ACC performer Cord Howard and Joseph Gilbert, but I feel guard will be a real position of strength this season. At the left guard spot expect to see redshirt sophomore Omoregie Uzzi (6'3", 304). Uzzi is an imposing physical presence who played significant minutes last season. This experience will prove invaluable & we expect Uzzi to be a difference maker this season. Will Jackson (RS freshman/6'4", 290) is our guess to start at the other guard spot heading into spring ball. Jackson will have a chance to lock down a starting role with a strong Spring. Also in the mix for playing time are redshirt sophomore Nick Mcrae (6'4", 295) & redshirt freshman Jay Finch (6'4", 275). McRae came to Flats a highly touted prospect and has yet to make an impact on the field. This Spring will be a chance for him to place himself in the mix for playing time entering the Fall. Finch also has a chance to impress with a strong Spring. Zach Krish (6'5", 285) returns for his redshirt senior season (it was once thought he was leaving for law school), giving us much needed depth. As we mentioned earlier, Ray Beno may also get a look at guard.
Phil Smith is still recovering from a broken ankle & will miss Spring practice....
  • Tackle: Phil Smith (RS sophomore/ 6'6", 295) will miss spring ball as he rehabs the ankle he broke in the ACC championship last Fall. A starter midway through last season, "Philthy" brings the "nasty" snarl to our line that every good offensive line possesses. Once the ankle is fully healed, we expect Smith to start in the Fall & play a major role in the improvement of our line. At the other tackle things are up for grabs. Redshirt senior Austin Barrick (6'3", 260) returns for his final campaign. A starter for much of last season, Barrick is undersized & will be pushed for his job by senior Nick Claytor (6'6", 304). Claytor has a world of physical ability but injuries ( a bad back in particular) have hampered him throughout his career. If Claytor can fight through the injuries we expect him to start in the Fall. We really haven't seen Antonio Foster (RS freshman/ 6'4", 290) and will be interested to see him in action this spring.
We enter Spring practice with some questions on the offensive line but the answers are within the program - it's a question of finding the right roles for our guys. It will be great to see who amongst the redshirt freshman (Jackson, Beno, Finch, Foster) is ready to step up as the staff feels strongly that this class of offensive linemen is a good one. Expect this year's incoming recruits, Morgan Bailey & Catlin Alford, to be redshirted so they can learn the system & bulk up. Uzzi & Smith have the potential to be All-ACC players before they finish at Tech & we'll need both to have big year's for us. A lack of depth is the only potential problem we see along the offensive line in 2010. Let's hope we stay healthy. The offensive line is where games are won & lost & we'll be watching closely this Spring to see who is ready for an increased role in 2010....

1 comment:

  1. Joe Hamilton and I are going to spend the day smoking spliffs and cruising around the ATL, but first. The secret to avoiding cops is to let the white guy drive. Racial profiling cuts two ways.

    Anybody notice that our starting offensive line could likely weigh in at 285, 304, 295, 295, and 304 respectably . Johnson used smaller offensive lineman (Like Austin Barrack) at Navy because he needed the speed. That and squeezing a 300 pound man into a subamarine is like trying to squeeze Texas into Oklahoma.

    If you follow recruiting you may have notice that a lot of Tech's o-line men played a sport like basketball in high school. Johnson has always said that he would like bigger offensive lineman provided they are strong and quick, not just fat. A good offensive line recruit for Tech? Undersized, Athletic, Run Blocks Well, has a nasty streak. It looks like he's been able to find those kind of players at Tech, and by holding on to there redshirts and running an IV drip of bacon grease into there arm twice a the staff has been able to overcome the "undersized" lable that many Tech O-Line Recruits come in with.