Although Ohio’s offensive line lost three seniors from last season — Mike McQueen, Lucas Powell and Mike Lucas — it is prepared to be retooled with ease as the team prepares for the fall.
“There were really good players we lost, but I think we can fill those voids with good football players and get some really good, young depth coming,” coach Frank Solich said.
Solich said Josh Cooper — who played with a wrist injury for a majority of last season — has shown vast improvement during spring training this year.
Jake Pruehs has also shown the ability to succeed at the center position, getting frequent reps in practice.
Durrell Wood is coming off a shoulder injury from last season and is currently nursing a hip flexor. Despite his injuries, Solich said Wood is doing well.
The offensive line has suffered injuries heading into the new season, and it has had to move some players around at times in order to fill voids.
“We’re in the process now of just trying some guys at maybe some different spots,” offensive line coach Dave Johnson said.
Despite the ability to overcome injuries, stability on the line will be desired next year.
“As we go into spring and then the fall, we’ll try to lock them in a bit more and try not to rotate guys as much,” Johnson said.
Johnson wants the players to get a feel for a certain position. This comfortableness in one’s role would almost make each player like a specialist.
“The way we’re trying to do things now, we’re all technicians,” Pruehs said. “If one person is slacking, we’re all slacking.”
One unit. Like dominoes, if one player crashes, the entire line crashes. And that’s not particularly ideal for the quarterback.
“We just want our quarterback to be comfortable,” Cooper said.
If a sense of comfort is created for the quarterback, then the offensive line has done its job.
But doing its job involves all five players on the line having synergy. Their movements should be as synchronized just like choreography on a stage.
“If one falls, all of us fall,” Cooper said. “Without that we’re nothing, so we have to stay together.”
McQueen’s leadership on the offensive line was crucial for the Bobcats last season, as Cooper said the new line does not have the same sort of leadership McQueen gave.
McQueen, however, said the offensive line appears to be in good shape as it fixes its structure.
“I think we (Lucas and Mike) did do a good job in letting the young guys know, ‘Hey we’re going to be gone one day,’ ” McQueen said.
The three seniors urged the younger players on the line to step up last year, whether it was in the weight room, practice or conditioning.
With a first team offensive line led by Pruehs and Cooper, the second team is even younger.
The second team has two freshmen, Adam Notestine and Sean Beadle, who graduated from high school early to start practicing with Ohio.
Assistant head coach Tim Albin said the two freshmen should be enjoying the last months of their senior years preparing for graduation with their classmates and writing senior papers. Instead, they’re patching up the line’s depth.
“I couldn’t be prouder of those two guys,” Albin said. “They have done really, really well.”
The line’s injuries last season showed how important depth is at the position.
But the offensive line is structured in a way in which players on the second team offensive line can step up.
Albin said if a player on the second team offensive line is needed, he would only call plays that would ensure success for the entire line.
The offensive line’s flexibility, toughness and discipline — all contribute to five players working together. And Ohio’s overall success.
“Every man, even more so than last year has to do their job fully,” Pruehs said. “If they don’t, it won’t work.”