Probably should start calling this "One Less Week" cuz of the frequency I've been doin em, but, hey.
There's a line between being a football expert and being a guy who knows a lot about football.
I, sirs, fall on the "guy who knows a lot about football" side. And one thing I think falls on the other side of that line is being able to watch a game and judge how good someone is at offensive line.
Basically, the only time I notice an offensive lineman is when they do something bad, like allowing a sack, or holding, and even then, half the time I'll be like "wow, what a play by that defensive end!" So, the better you are at it, the less you get noticed. Fortunately for NU fans, our five guys up front did a great job blocking for CJ and opening up holes for Tyrell. Unfortunately, that means I barely noticed them.
Case in point: Couldn't find any photos of NU's o-line blocking for CJ all year long. Found one photo of an anonymous, possibly dead O-lineman lying face first while CJ Bachér doesn't know he's about get absolutely crumpled by a blindside tackle from a Mizzou linebacker doing his best Dark Knight impression.
So, here's to the offensive line, the great season they had last year, and to giving them the respect they deserve.
Days till Football Season: 57.
Who did it last year? From left to right, Al Netter, Keegan Kennedy, Ben Burkett, Doug Bartels, and Desmond Taylor.
Last year, coming into the season, O-Line was a major issue: Only two players, Joel Belding and Kurt Mattes, had extensive starting experience. The way it turned out, the line became one of our strong suits, despite the fact that those guys didn't even factor in, and instead we started three RS Freshman, a converted defensive lineman in Kennedy, and Taylor,a junior who took Mattes' right tackle spot. Essentially, five guys with no experience whatsoever made themselves into a cohesive unit.
Who's going to do it this year? Everybody mentioned above except Kennedy, the left guard, and Belding, who started at right guard in 2007 only to be usurped by Bartels last year, will return. This leaves an opening at LG, which could be filled by a bunch of people. Junior Keegan Grant, who is now the only offensive lineman on our roster whose first name is Keegan and whose last name is that of a president, was the starter there in spring ball, but the way to maximize experience and seniority would be to move Taylor, who plays guard as well, there while moving Mattes back to RT, so who knows. (Taylor is the only player listed as an "OT" on his player profile, but I think this is an accident - even centers have "OL" instead.) I predict a line of Netter, Grant, Burkett, Bartels, and either Taylor or Mattes and RT, but, let's face it: I'm in way over my head writing about this stuff, made up mostly of my opinions based on player's profile pages, and, the point of this paragraph is that we have a lot more experience than we had last year.
In lieu of more analysis, here's the 1979 smash hit "Hold the Line" by Toto.
(Hey, lead guitarist guy: the cherry red sunburst Les Paul looks awful familiar. Looks nice, but you could use some stickers of sub-par basketball players on there.)
(And, for those of you wondering: yeah, it's sort of emasculating to know that my guitar is the same as the one the guy from Toto uses.)
Is that an improvement? I'd say so. Sure, we lose a guy, but think about it this way: where last year, we started five guys who had never played offensive line, much less together, in a unit where cohesion is required. This year, we'll start probably either four or five guys who have experience, depending on how we rejigger people.
During spring ball, I asked offensive coordinator Mick McCall whether he felt confident with essentially no returning experienced skill position players, and he told me, paraphrased, "well, last year, people were telling me we didn't have an offensive line, and look how that turned out." This year, offensive line has turned into the part of our offense we don't need to worry about. And that's definitely an improvement.
Who else we got? Totally not going to write about every other O-lineman we have on the roster, there's just too many, and I don't know anything about their respective playing styles, so I have nothing to offer. You'll get over it.