What to watch: The offensive line features a mix of veterans and young players
Published 4:49 pm Tuesday, July 26, 2016
The Bearcats enter the 2016 with a mix of experience and youth along the offensive line.
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Three-year starters Christian Glover and Ladarius Gaines will anchor the left side of the line and Earnest Williams also returns for a second year starting at right guard. The other two spots along the line, center and right tackle, will be manned by younger players stepping up to varsity full-time for the first time.
“[Glover and Gaines] have been starting since freshman year, understand our system, rarely make missed assignments, that’s huge,” offensive line coach Jason Whitaker said. “It makes coaching a lot easier. Watching all five is difficult. I let them kind of go and watch the other three. Make sure they’re doing it right.”
Junior Iran Brown is expected to be the full-time starter at right tackle after spending most of last season on junior varsity.
“[Brown] was a nice JV player and saw a little bit of snaps on the Friday nights last year,” Whitaker said. “He’s ready for it…He was ready to start [last year].”
At center, the position battle has been waging all summer between Hudson Barber and Brad Mitchell.
“It’s just who gets the ball back there to Brett,” Whitaker said. “The most important thing for that guy is he has to get the ball there.”
According to Whitaker, Barber has taken the lead for one simple reason: consistency.
“He’s consistently getting the ball there,” Whitaker said. “As long as he keeps that up and does his job with assignments he’ll, be fine. Number one role for our center, since we’re all gun, is he’s got to get the ball there in a consistent manner.”
The key for the offensive line is make sure that they can work together as one cohesive group. Whitaker said that they are working on finding not just the five most talented linemen, but also the ones that work best together.
“I don’t care if I have the five best offensive linemen in America,” he said. “I care about having the best five that work well together. That’s the process of just changing up combinations, who works well with who and who doesn’t. You can’t work well with others, you’re going to be on the defensive side of the ball.”
The offensive line will be tasked with keeping the pocket clean for quarterback Brett McLaughin and opening holes for star running back Dameon Pierce.
Check back on Saturday for a breakdown of the Bearcats’ 2016 defensive line.