Aug. 7, 2008
(3:46 p.m.) - During the next week or so, I'll be examining on a daily basis the Bearcats football team position by position. What you can expect from each unit, who is going to be responsible for keeping the position in the coaches' good graces, who might surprise you this season, what it all means to the rest of the team.
We'll break it down by running backs, wide receivers, offensive line, quarterbacks (saving this one as long as possible to see if anything changes with Ben Mauk), defensive line, linebackers, defensive backs and special team.
Today: the offensive line
The offensive line hasn't received much ink since fall practice began, and for the five guys in charge of protecting the Bearcats quarterback, that probably isn't a bad thing. Like the long-snapper, the more attention paid to this unit, the worse it's probably performing. That shouldn't be a problem this year for the offensive line, which returns experience and a two-time second-team All-Big East selection in guard Trevor Canfield.
Canfield will be the one who replaces the graduated Digger Bujnoch in terms of senior leadership, and although he spent much of his time last year at right guard, he'll now have to protect the quarterback's blind side. One assistant coach called him the team's rock.
But he'll have some help from other players who will feel more comfortable during their second season in Brian Kelly's system. Khalil El-Amin and Jeff Linkenbach split starts at right tackle last year, but this season Linkenbach will stay on the right side while El-Amin moves across the line.
Chris Jurek - one of three players to start at center last year - will reclaim the spot this season and should feel more relaxed in the shotgun-heavy offense. One of the few questions for this unit is Jason Kelce and how the former linebacker/center will respond to his new role as the right guard.
El-Amin doesn't seem worried.
"We got after it this summer, and Kelce isn't really a newcomer," he said. "He got some time last year, but he gelled right in with the way we played. He finishes hard."
And if the offensive line continues to stay out the limelight and keeps the quarterback protected, it's all the better for El-Amin.
"Regardless of who the quarterback is, the O-line is the backbone of the team," El-Amin said. "It's always important to have a strong O-line. We're going to play with who we have. If Mauk gets that year back, we'd love to have him back. If Grutza gets it, he'll be ready to play. Regardless, the O-line will be ready to play no matter what."
The schedule (amended to skip this weekend):
Aug. 5 - Running backs
Aug. 6 - Wide receivers
Today - Offensive line
Aug. 8 - Quarterbacks
Aug. 11 - Defensive line
Aug. 12 - Linebackers
Aug. 13 - Defensive backs
Aug. 14 - Special teams
Also, a friendly reminder: Make sure to bookmark Katzonthecats.com.