Tuesday, July 3, 2012

2012 Linfield Football Spring Review: Offensive Line

The 'Cats Offensive Line has the potential to be a force in 2012.
Yeah, I know it's July and it's no longer Spring but it's never too late to talk about football, and more importantly, talk about the 'Cats offensive line. The 2012 returning offensive line has a great blend of experience, youth, and talent that should have the coaching staff feeling confident this group can pick up where they left off in 2011.

And where this 2011 group left off was with the Wildcat offense averaging 39.9 points per game, netting 1,547 rushing yards, 16 rushing touchdowns, 3,205 passing yards, 35 passing TDs, while allowing 24 sacks on the season.  The 'Cats 2011 offensive line had key new faces behind them but Line provided a major dose of confidence for Mickey Inns and Josh Hill to get established in the offense.  

So now in 2012 the 'Cats offensive line is working with both an experience and highly productive starting quarterback and starting tailback in Inns and Hill.  If anything the bar in terms of expectation for the offensive line and overall offense is going to be set higher than any of these returners have experience so far in their careers at Linfield.  Coaches and fans of the 'Cats are going to be looking for the 'Cats offense to force their will on the opposition with a cutting balanced offense.  Now is not the time for this unit to feel satisfied in anyway as they head into 2012.  I'm not too worried about complacency as Coach Hire will have his linemen zeroed in on game one and moving on from there.

That doesn't mean this group's upcoming performance is a lock or written in stone.  This offensive line lost Honorable Mention All-American guard Jordan Barnes and 1st team All-NWC Center Hayden Mace due to graduation.  Barnes and Mace's performance, leadership, and experience is going to be sorely missed in 2012.  However, that's the name of the game and Coach Hire and his players do a phenomenal job in producing one high caliber offensive line after the next.  In fact, if you take a look at the past 10 years Coach Hire's offensive line has produced 20 1st team All-NWC performers and 5 of those have been named All-Americans.

In 2012, Wildcat11 is expecting those numbers to grow even further.

Returning Starter 
Drew Wert OG 6-1 270 Sr/Sr Grants Pass, Ore.
Kaston Gleason OT 6-0 250 Sr/Sr Mililani, Hawaii
Steven Schultz OT 6-4 288 Jr./So. Tacoma, Wash.
Jacob Priester TE 6-2 225 Jr./Jr. Patterson, Calif.
Jeremy Patrick C 6-2 265 Jr./So. Portland, Ore.

Steady Vet
Zack Hickman OT 6-3 285 Jr/So. Hillsboro, Ore
Jesse Archambault OT 6-3 230 Jr/Jr. Roseburg, Ore.
Eddie Fennimore OG 6-5 290 Sr/Sr Salem, Ore,
Bobby Nix C 6-0 315 Sr./Jr. Bonney Lake, Wash.

Up and Coming
Kyle Jones OG/C 5-11 275 Jr./Jr. Everett, Wash.
Hayden Sanders TE 6-4 250 Jr/Jr. Canby, Ore
Jacob Hanke OT 6-3 255 So/So. Salem, Ore.
Kekuapono Kalua OG 5-11 270 So./So. Waianae, Hawaii
Josh Whitney OT 6-3 255 So./So. Salem, Ore.
Owen Fritz OG 6-3 255 So./So. Lynwood, Wash.

Talking Ball with Linfield Associate Head Coach/Offensive Line Coach Doug Hire 

Associate Head Coach/Offensive Line Coach Doug Hire is entering into his 13th year in leading the 'Cats O-Line.
(Wildcat11) Coach Hire, in the little time I spent watching the offensive line this spring it looked like a nice mixture of experience and youth. What was your overall impressive of your offensive line this spring? 

(Doug Hire) I believe we had a productive spring and accomplished what we had set out to get done. Emphasis was working on fundaments of course but we worked hard on foot patterns/tracking, hand placement/punch, and angles in the running game. As for pass protections we worked hard on understanding sets, set angles, and hand fighting/placement. Balance was a key component in both areas. In addition, we currently do not have the depth that I would like to have so Spring was a time for the younger players to gain some ground fundamentally and mentally as to create some depth for next fall.

(WC11) You’ve had great contributions over the past few seasons from Jordan Barnes and Hayden Mace. Losing starting players to graduation is the nature of the beast in college football. Do you have a philosophy in handling this almost-yearly transition or do you approach this from a year-to-year basis?

(D.H.) I’ll share 3 quotes that can help answer your question. “Play the hand you're dealt.” is a quote from Chuck Knox that has stuck with me when I played at Seattle. “Out work your opponent” and “Have a Plan” (Rutschman quotes). Yes, we lose great players and leaders like Jordan Barnes and Hayden Mace every year.  Every year we will have a group of vets, returning players, new players, and occasionally some that have never played on the oline.

At the start of and during summer camp I will identify young/new players who will be future starters.  In the past it has been 2 or 3 guys. I would love this number to be 4 or 5 but you play the hand your dealt. These guys at the start of the season will practice up with the older guys. Jordan Barnes was one of these guys. His freshman year he was not on the scout team, practiced with the 2nd offensive group through out the year and was one of the first guys in/ rotating during the season. Yes, I'm developing depth and this is an important part of the process every year, creating depth. At the same time identifying guys who are making progress during the season and moving them up as and/or when needed. Guys who practice with the older guys will have a better understanding of the game plan, practice blocking schemes and techniques that apply to the game plan, and will be able to transition to a starting role in the future. It’s like taking Calculus, the first time might be tough and you may struggle and will need to work hard at it but if you take the class the second time it should be much easier. Scout team is like taking a class that is pass or fail and you're at the service of the Defense.

Then I will have guys like Steven Schultz and Aaron Heston who have never played on the Oline but they were athletic, strong, and hand something special about them. All I had to do was show them, teach them how to be offensive linemen. I also get guys like Scott Millenbach who came from a run oriented offense using shoulder blocks. He had to learn how to pass protect and use his hands. Scott was the only player that played every position on the oline, both tackle and guard positions and center. So my other point for creating depth on the oline is being versatile, learning another position other than being just a right guard but knowing the center position or learning both right tackle and left tackle and perhaps center as well.

(WC11) You have a very good group of returning starters this season. Would you talk about the strengths of the returners and where you’ve been emphasizing areas of improvement for them?

(D.H.) Drew Wert- 3 year starter, experienced, very physical, potentially could dominate the running and passing game with his power, toughness, and athleticism. Some work on the mental aspect of the game, the little things to improve his over understanding of the game.

Kaston Gleason- Possible 3 year starter, great feet and balance, improved toughness, great pass pro technique. Need to work on mental part of the game, letting things go and not allowing the past to over take the future. I have philosophy and psychology 101 class for him.

Steven Schultz- 2nd year starter, future All-American, has all the tools of being great, one of the best I have ever coached. Improved toughness and confidence and should have another great season. As for weaknesses, he needs time to refine skills, the little things to achieve his potential.

Jacob Priester- 2nd year starter, another guy who potential could be one the great ones here at Linfield. Has all the tools despite his height as a TE. A competitor who does not like to make mistakes, a perfectionist who can block and catch the ball. He has great feet and will stick his nose into anyone on defense.

Jeremy Patrick- Projected starting center, quick study as he paid attention last year being the backup to Hayden Mace. Very sharp and has a pretty good understanding of the offense, not only his position. Future All-Conference player and potential All-American for Linfield. Improved toughness, displayed this during the Wesley game.

(WC11) There is a group of vets and young guys that are looking to earn their spots in the line-up. What contributions do you see your vets bring to the table in the 2012 season?

 (D.H.) Expectation of the young guys- Compete and get better! Need to create depth as I am not sure who it will be. Hopefully these guys have made a commitment during the summer in their training.

(WC11) There seems to be a high level of competition between the open starting sports and slots in the rotation this year. How does your offensive line go about players competing their butts off to get on the field but still maintain the cohesion needed to be an effective line? It always seems the ‘Cats offensive lines are a tight group off and on the field. 

(D.H.) Our guys understand the make-up of our position and what we do. They know that we are a service group and they know what our expectations are as offensive linemen. Our glory and satisfaction comes from the production of our tail back, quarterback, and receivers that we understand have a direct correlation and responsibility to the success of the offense. Pride and commitment to what we do is a must. We have no ego or stats and we must love what we do. They know that the better we get as group and we need to improve on our techniques and assignments. They all know that we need depth and I explain the situation at the start of the season during the summer that I would like to be 2 deep in every position. These position could change during the season and you may be called upon at any time. And to be honest, there are some guys who are program players and buy into their role.

(WC11) Last season we discussed the responsibility off the offensive line transitioning a new quarterback. Now, you’re in the position of having an established returning backfield. How does this change the offensive mindset from going to the unknown to now having an All-NWC QB behind center? 

(D.H.) I have told them this in the past and will reiterate this again. What matters is what is in front of us and not behind us! I am referring to our job and responsibility in taking care of the defense. It could Mickey Mouse at QB or Daffy Duck at running back but it does not matter. We cannot control what the QB or RB does but we sure can make things easier and better for them. We’re not going to change our attitude or work ethic based on who is behind us. Sure will understand and know that we have Mickey Inns and Josh Hill behind us and that the reverse is true that they could make our job easier as well! We’ve had both situations in the past, new QB and/or new RB with little of no experience. We also have had the same on the oline where we were new and inexperienced. I believe every position must trust that every player will be coached and that you must trust your teammates. Of course time will develop this trust and the sooner the better.


Radams said...

Thanks for featuring the big guys! This is gonna be a fun group to watch this year!

MommaBear said...

What a great feature! Thanks for posting it :) This is going to be a terrific season! GO 'CATS!