I just realized I did a really crappy job of spacing these posts out. We're a normal-sized month away from football season, which leaves us 24 days away from game week, which leaves me 24 days away from NORMAL FOOTBALL SEASON POSTING SCHEDULE. To quote wordsmith Waka Flocka Flame, "O let's do it."
(Also, get prepared for how boring this post is.)
Days Left Til Football: 31
One Less Day Til Football Season 2010, Post 5: The Offensive Line
Do you have a long-winded, meaningless thing to write about playcalling terminology this time?: Hell no! This is easy, son!
Who did it last year?: Three positions had starters for all 13 games last year: Left tackle was Al Netter, right guard was Doug Bartels, and center was Ben Burkett. Netter and Burkett are juniors started every game since redshirting, and both are on various all-Big Ten watchlists, so, they're good. Bartels is a junior and has started all but five games in his career, so, that's good too.
The others had people switching off as the year went on. Left guard had Desmond Taylor to start the year, but injuries put Keegan Grant in, and after Brian Mulroe recovered from his injury, he started the Outback Bowl. And right tackle saw Kurt Mattes give way to Neal Dieters as the year went along, with Patrick Ward getting playing time almost every game.
So, for the most part, pretty solid unit. They gave up 32 sacks which isn't great - that's tenth in the conference - but considering how pass-heavy our attack was, it could've been worse. They weren't able to open up much for a dismal running game, but did always seem to block well for Kafka's runs, and gave him the time necessary to throw a lot of the time.
Who's Got Next?: Let's go position by position, starting from the most to least locked down. (Remember, coach Fitz said at media days yesterday he expected this position to go "eight-deep".
Left Tackle: Still Netter. If Netter could have dinner with any person in history, it would be Martin Luther King Jr., according to his profile page. Intriguing.
Center: Burkett. I like to imagine Burkett also has a civil rights leader as the person he'd most like to dine with.
Right Tackle: Patrick Ward, NU's only four-star recruit on the team, played a lot of right tackle, and seemingly has his job settled.
Left Guard: Grant is a senior, and has the most experience at the position, but at 6-foot-2 would be the tiniest lineman NU has to offer. It looks like Brian Mulroe will end up getting the job he earned last year, with Grant getting spot playing time - another example of Fitz trending towards youth in the trenches.
Right Guard: Bartels started every game here last year, but the coaching staff likes Neal Deiters, a 6-foot-8 guy who I had more to this sentence but holy crap 6-foot-8 is really tall. Deiters had played a decent amount of right tackle, but with Ward the seemingly more talented lineman, and Deiters the more flexible one, he's been moved over a spot. I consider this to be the least settled position because the depth chart literally says "OR" between their names, implying a starter isn't decided yet.
So, left tackle, center, and right tackle look like they'll be one-man gigs, while the others are sort of up-for-grabs and will see people switching in and out.
Is that an improvement? Offensive lines are about consistency. This unit did great when they were thrown together hastily as freshmen. Now it's two years later, and three of the guys that were freshmen together in 2008 - Netter, Burkett, and Bartels - are still there, with two years more experience. And then you throw two younger guys in Ward and Mulroe who have played in the past - and you have a line with no seniors on it with no completely inexperienced players. Not to mention that the team is legit big now: for years, the word on NU's line was that it was filled with tiny guys and that we had to play a quick-hitting spread because our line was so damn small. If we start Netter-Mulroe-Burkett-Deiters-Ward, our average starter is 6-foot-6 (rounding up from 5 3/5 inches) and 294 pounds. That's a big unit, although still kinda light on weight for a Big Ten team, but moving in the right direction to be a legit front unit.
I hope you're all bored now, because I sure am. (Goodness, this was boring.) We move onto the defensive side of the ball tomorrow.