Chemistry key for veteran group
For offensive lineman, chemistry is more important to success than any other position on the football field.
The unit has to be on the same page during pass protection to keep the quarterback upright when opposing teams blitz, said head coach Tony Levine. During run plays, the offensive line has to decide who will move to the second level of the defense and attack the linebackers — a simple communication error could lead to a loss of yards
“They can’t perform as five pennies. They’ve got to play like a nickle,” Levine said. “I think we’re seeing that being developed on a daily basis.”
The Cougars have a good opportunity to capture the chemistry they desire with a veteran group that has six players with 92 career starts between them. Junior tackle Rowdy Harper and senior guard Ty Cloud both have 26 starts. The Cougars only lost one starter, Jacolby Ashworth, from last year’s squad.
Levine said junior center Bryce Redman is a player who has stood out this spring. He said Redman’s energy and effort have gotten his teammates to rally around his leadership.
Senior offensive lineman Kevin Forsch said the group has developed a bond where they don’t have to speak to communicate because they have played together in tight games. He said the Cougars have a group of leaders on the offensive line who all look up to each other.
“We don’t have to describe everything we do,” Forsch said. “We’ll say one little word or just something short like point at a guy and say watch him. We know how we’re going to react and how to play off each other.
“We all look at each other and say, ‘Man, we trust in each other.’ We know that we have each others’ backs, so it’s kind of like we’re all leading together. If somebody’s down, we’re picking them up.”
The Cougars have been working on perfecting their technique during spring practice, an area where the team has gotten better, Levine said.
“I think their technique and fundamentals have vastly improved really as much as unit, except maybe the defensive line throughout the course of spring practice,” Levine said.
“I think we need to continue to develop some depth, but we’re certainly getting better. (As far as) the pass protection, we’re creating a better pocket for our quarterbacks than we did last year.”
They will have competition from a large group of newcomers who will arrive in the fall that could develop into the depth that Levine wants to see. Junior college transfer Damien Parris joins incoming freshmen Emerald Faletuipapai, Ja’Braylin Thomas and Josh Thomas, who will show up with an average size of 6-foot-6 and 329 pounds.
Harper said, regardless of size, the thing that could make this group successful lies in the muscles above the shoulders.
“I think we have a lot of football intelligence on the offensive line, especially with Bryce and Kevin, so with those two guys next to each other, everything comes together, and I think it’s awesome to have that,” Harper said.