This is the fourth in a series of looks at the 2010 UC football roster through the eyes of its position coaches. It continues with a glimpse at the offensive line with OL coach Don Mahoney.
Mahoney, who spent the last three years as offensive line coach under Butch Jones at Central Michigan, is in his first year in the role with UC.
Starters - LT Samuel Griffin, Sr., LG Jason Kelce, Sr., C Evan Davis, Jr., RG Alex Hoffman, Jr., RT C.J. Cobb, Sr.
Reserves - LT Sean Hooey, Soph., LG, Austen Bujnoch, RS Fresh., C Jason Kelce, Sr., RG T.J. Franklin, Jr., RT Andre Cureton, RS Fresh.
Freshmen: Keith Schloemer, Clint Shepperd
Overview: While the skill position players on offense soak up all the headlines, the offensive line deserves a significant amount of recognition. This group will be among the most experienced of any on the team returning three players who started every game last season and another (Cobb) who started one game and played in 12.
Biggest Question: With first-year starter Evan Davis taking over at center, will he be able to handle the mental aspect of being the quarterback of the offensive line?
Mahoney: "Evan has a grasp of it, but in the spread there is a bonus that there are two of guards, with Evan looking through his legs, Kelce will give him some calls about something that has changed or something has moved and Hoffman is just the same. (Davis) is a very intelligent, smart football player. They can handle that also. For Evan, it is the system being new. As much as all that stuff, it is the first time for Evan in our offense, the terminology, so it is good to have those two guys beside him."
Starter: Sam Griffin
Tangibles: 6-4, 275 pounds, Sr.
Last year: Started all 12 games he played at right tackle
Mahoney's take: "Obviously he has the playing experience, he progressed as spring went along. We are sure he can hold down that spot this year. He is extremely unselfish, to make that move is a challenge he looked forward to chasing. I didn't have to worry about that. The biggest adjustment for most of them is the fact that going from right-hand stance to left-hand stance."
PDJ Projection: It will be interesting to monitor if Griffin has any problems moving across the line, but Mahoney didn't anticipate there being any. I tend to agree. Griffin proved he can hold his own on the edge last season and while he will see more premier pass rushers on the left side, he's a mature senior with a history of success, he should have little problem.
Backup: Sean Hooey
Tangibles: 6-8, 296 pounds, Soph.
Last year: Played in four games without a start
Mahoney's take: "He made some strides in spring. He got a lot of reps, continued to work at it. He is up for wanting to push Sam. He's a guy that we want to work his way into trying to push him.
Mahoney on the difference between Griffin and Hooey: "He's got more size than Sam, he is close to 300 pounds, taller and at tackle you like to have that because of their range to block out on the edge and protect the edge. Sam is quicker because of the size. Sam is one that is ahead of the game in a lot of ways, mentally and physically. Sean is a continued work in progress."
PDJ Projection: Hooey owns the physical tools to be a dominant tackle with his height and weight. Learning behind Griffin will be a bonus, but as Mahoney said, he's a work in progress. He appears perfectly groomed to take over the position next season.
Starter: Jason Kelce
Tangibles: 6-4, 290 pounds, Sr.
Last year: 13 games, 13 starts
Mahoney's take: "Without a doubt our leader up front with the way he plays, his mental makeup and blue collar mentality. As much as we want to teach and coach it is what you learn by what is in front of you and things that Jason provides in teaching and leadership goes a long way
Mahoney on Kelce's NFL possibilities: "He needs to play extremely solid this year, we expect him to do that fully. The scouts will come in they will do their evaluation. He has toughness, very good feet. He is extremely intelligent, great football mind, common sense and all that. The lacking thing for him is being 6-5, 6-4, but he makes up for it on the other end."
PDJ Projection: Kelce will be in an NFL training camp at this time next year. Whether it is as a draft pick or college free agent is yet to be seen, but considering his production and efficiency at UC it would be hard to imagine a team not taking a chance on him. For this year, he will be the heart and soul of the line and one of those players that would be difficult to replace not only on the field but as a leader if they were to go down to injury.
Backup: Austen Bujnoch
Tangibles: 6-5, 265 pounds, RS Fresh.
Last year: Redshirt
Mahoney's take: "He was limited this spring with (hamstring) injuries. He has a very good future ahead of him. He has good size, he's grading. Injuries held him back this spring to let him come along as much as we think he can do. It is critical for him to get as much work as possible this fall. He had a good summer in regards to his injury, there was nothing reoccurring. He is going to be all systems go on Monday. We are excited for what he can do. He is young and wanting to learn."
PDJ Projection: This could be the most interesting offensive lineman to watch during fall practice. The Elder grad's development will be a key to the depth of this team and considering his lack of game experience and limited time practicing in the spring, he will need to be on the fast track should anything happen to Kelce or Evan Davis. Since Kelce is the backup center, an injury to either would likely place Bujnoch into the spotlight.
Starter: Evan Davis
Tangibles: 6-4, 262 pounds, Jr.
Last year: Played in six games without a start
Mahoney's take: "He's very anxious to really play and play well for us. He's eager to prove what he is capable of doing at the same time he needs to channel that in the right way. It isn't a matter of proving anything it is a matter of going out and doing what you are capable of doing at the highest level. That will be just fine for us with what he has displayed so far. He worked extremely hard at everything from film to footwork to conditioning, you name it. So, he is fine in that regard."
PDJ Projection: There will be plenty of pressure on Davis with a cast of experienced players surrounding him. In the same respect, with Hofffman and Kelce flanking him, the job could be a whole lot easier. My guess would be he will have little problem stepping in at center. If he does, there is enough depth that Kelce could move to center and pieces could fall into place around to stay solid.
Tangibles: 6-4, 290 pounds, Sr.
Tangibles: 6-3, 260 pounds, Redshirt Fresh.
Last year: Redshirt
Mahoney's take: The center position is new to him, he was a linebacker in high school. His learning is taking a little bit slower, but he is a guy that keeps working in time hopefully sooner than later it will be one where he will get himself in position to provide some depth there.
Tangibles: 6-4, 287 pounds, Redshirt Jr.
Mahoney's take: "He did some snapping this summer, but that is really a spot where you can never have too many guys with the ball in their hands."
PDJ Projection: It would take a nightmare scenario for Sprague or Franklin to see time at center, but there are plenty of options there should injuries occur. And Kelce's flexibility adds a dimension of depth across the line.
Starter: Alex Hoffman
Tangibles: 6-5, 293 pounds, Jr.
Last year: Started 13 of 13 games
Mahoney's take: "He's had a tremendous offseason where his body has really developed and he has gotten stronger. He is bigger. He set out to get upper body strength which he did. His body is different. It was a matter of losing some midsection weight that really wasn't very good and added some shoulders and some chest. He's got a confidence about him he has translated from the weight room to the field. That is really going to pay off for him. He played some tackle in the spring, so he can play tackle, but guard is where he is most suited at. He's going to have a heck of a year for us, I really believe that.
PDJ Projection: Hoffman will likely be the most improved player on this line. His dedication in the weight room should turn him into a nasty force on the inside. Mahoney sounded as sure about Hoffman delivering a big year as any topic he spoke about.
Tangibles: 6-4, 287 pounds, Jr.
Last year: Played in three games without a start
Tangibles: 6-1, 277 pounds, Jr.
Last year: Played in five games without a start
Mahoney's take: "They are very unselfish guys. This will be an interesting battle. Those are two guys that are blue-collar, workmanlike attitudes. Their attitude and intelligence is good and intention to help the team. You have to be able to have some flexibility."
PDJ Projection: Franklin would have a leg up due to his size advantage, but really this will all come down to performance during fall practice as to who will emerge.
Starter: C.J. Cobb
Tangibles: 6-4, 304 pounds, Sr.
Last year: Played in 12 games with one start
Mahoney's take: "It was unfortunate he had the (ankle) injury he did. He is on target to have what I would perceive to be the senior year that is deserving of him. His attitude and work ethic has been tremendous. He is deserving of a fun senior year for what he has put in to this from before the injury to when the injury occurred. It has been unbelievable. People don't see that. They never will see it, but this guy has worked unbelievably to get himself ready to go for the season. He is actually ahead of schedule because he has worked so doggone hard and is determined to be ready."
PDJ Projection: Mahoney said Cobb will be practicing on Monday and is slated as the starter after suffering an ankle injury that forced him out of the spring. His rehab and leadership has noticed by coaches and players alike this offseason. His health will be worth monitoring, but it appears he is full go. And if he is, this line takes a major step in the right direction.
Backup: Andre Cureton
Tangibles: 6-6, 318 pounds, RS Fresh
Last year: Played in one game without a start
Mahoney's take: "He dropped a tremendous amount of weight so he has become a guy that we got to count on this fall. There is no waiting. You would like to be able to say, maybe another year. There is not another year. It has to be now. He will be challenging also at the guard position. A guy of his size, mass and athleticism has to help us. And will. I think he sent that message again with the workload he put in this summer.
"From the Sugar Bowl his weight was probably around the 360 mark and he is around 318. I told him, you will not enjoy this offense in the weight you are playing at."
PDJ Projection: Anybody who drops that kind of weight in an offseason is ready to play and Cureton will be provided that opportunity. And with some uncertainty surrounding C.J. Cobb, Cureton is a part of the backup plan. I look for him to play a role at either guard, tackle or goal line situations as the year progresses.
Tangibles: 6-7, 274
Last year: Lakota West High School
Mahoney's take: "He is one we will look at real early. He has the immediate size and frame that could be workable. If he can answer the mental and physical part he has a chance to contribute."
PDJ Projection: There will be other freshman that will have a shot at some playing time, but Schloemer has the body to realistically make an impact.
Craig Parmenter, RS Jr., Doug Pike, Fresh., Mitch Kessell, Fresh., Clint Shepperd, Fresh.
PDJ Projection: Mahoney didn't see any other players making a significant impact, so a redshirt would be likelihood for these guys. However, Mahoney said he doesn't talk to anybody about redshirts at this time of year.