O-line provides stability amidst changes

The Cougars return four-of-five starters from last season. Last season, UH allowed only 1.3 sacks per game. | Hendrick Rosemond/The Daily Cougar

It is a rarity for an offensive line to receive recognition for their work in the trenches. It almost seems fitting that in a season of change with all eyes on competitions elsewhere, it will be the “big uglies” up front providing the Cougars biggest boost heading into 2012.

“Up front, that’s where it all starts,” offensive line coach Lee Hays said. “Right now my goals on the offensive line are to play a little bit harder, a little bit more physical and develop some guys for backup roles.”

The Cougars bring back four starters from a unit that allowed just 1.3 sacks per game while helping UH lead the nation in both scoring and total offense.

Hays and the Cougars are not here to talk about the past though.

“We’ve got a different quarterback and different wideouts, so we’ll probably be called upon to do a few different things,” Hays said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do this spring and summer.”

One of the biggest changes for the Cougars’ O-line comes with the transition of Kevin Forsch from right guard to center; a position that he worked with on the second team in practices last season.

“Out of all our offensive lineman, I think he’s played the best so far this spring,” head coach Tony Levine said. “It doesn’t seem like much moving from right guard to center – literally moving 36 inches over – but it’s a huge change.”

After unveiling a blank depth chart to begin spring practice, Levine has made it clear everyone will be earning their position — including the veteran offensive linemen.

“We’re a third of the way through and I like the competition and not only right guard but at right tackle,” Levine said. “Rowdy [Harper] started 14 games as a redshirt freshman this past season and Josh McNeill is a junior college transfer that got here last summer who wasn’t here until this summer; offensive line is a tough position to learn technique-wise and mentally in a short amount of time.”

Other returning veterans include left guard Ty Cloud, right guard Ralph Oragwu and left tackle Jacolby Ashworth – all of whom saw significant playing time in 2011. These returnees will be asked to lead and play a pivotal role in the Cougars success.

“We like to put a lot of pressure on ourselves because we know we can be a really good group if we push ourselves,” Forsch said. “Coach Hays has us working real hard and we’re just out there trying to be the best can.”

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