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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Football

Ashworth shows leadership on offensive line


Pancaking a defensive player can conjure the same feelings as dunking a basketball. Redshirt senior offensive lineman Jacolby Ashworth has done both.

Ashworth boxed out opponents as a center on his high school basketball team in Lufkin. The skills garnered on the basketball court have bettered him on the football field, he said.

“In my background I played a lot of basketball growing up. I try to use that on the field as much as I can,” Ashworth said.

“Footwork. Just picking my feet up, getting through holes to the linebackers and second level. I keep my feet in pass blocking.”

Besides his athleticism, Ashworth’s best asset may be his consistency. After a season-ending ankle injury against UT El Paso in 2009, he started in 31 consecutive games on the offensive line.

Offensive line coach Lee Hayes said it’s a joy to coach Ashworth and the veteran group, of which he is a leader. Hayes said Ashworth’s motor keeps opponents off-balanced all night.

“I think I’m closer to this group than I’ve ever been with groups in the past. It’s a joy to come out and coach them. They want to work hard,” Hayes said. “They want to pay the price. I don’t ever have to talk about effort. I have to pull (Ashworth) back a little bit. Sometimes he’s too aggressive.”

This season, though UH is 2-3, Ashworth has been a stabilizing force along the offensive line through injuries to the other starters, redshirt sophomore Rowdy Harper and redshirt junior Kevin Forsch.

After defeating North Texas 44-21 — now that the squad is fully healthy — the offensive line was named offensive player of the week by the coaching staff. Junior running back Charles Sims rushed for 210 yards and sophomore quarterback David Piland threw 321 passing yards without getting sacked.

Ashworth and the offensive line were a big part of the team’s success. Last season, he and former offensive lineman Chris Thompson coined the term Bricksquad for the offensive line — a euphemism Ashworth hopes sticks after he moves on.

Hayes said Ashworth flourishes because he works hard during practice.

“He’s a leader in that he leads by example,” Hayes said. “When he talks to the kids about going hard they have to rise to his level on the offensive line because he’s going the hardest.”

“He makes my job easier, not because he’s a good football player but because he’s a good man,” Hayes said.

Redshirt junior Ralph Oragwu — a friend and roommate of Ashworth — said underneath the rough exterior, he’s a gentle giant off the field. On the field is a different story; Oragwu said Ashworth can talk and back it up.

“He’s more of a sweet guy outside the field. He has manners. On the field he’s a beast but off the field he’s a normal, cool, laid back guy,” Oragwu said.

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