March 17, 2012

Concerns for the o-line

Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe is concerned, and rightfully so after losing four starters on the offensive line.

The goal Grobe has for new offensive coach Jonathan Himebauch is to develop players as replacements and improvements for what has departed. At Himebauch's disposal is a limited means of depth and experience.

"One thing we're going to try to do [is] we're going to try to be very careful about the amount of offense we put in this spring," Grobe said. "We don't want to have kids not developing or performing, because they don't know what to do. We want to limit what we're doing offensively, especially early in the spring so that we're just working on plain old blocking and try to find out who the best physically are, then we've got to teach them the offense."

The need to cultivate an environment of simplicity and positive learning is especially important when having a young team, but the need for that is greatest on the offensive line. After struggling to pass-block (35 sacks allowed) and open holes for the runners (114.6 yards rushing per game) with a veteran group last season the concern is greater with the changing of the guard as a new and relatively untested group is ushered in.

Center Garrick Williams is the lone returning starter for the Deacs up front, while offensive tackle Steven Chase and offensive guard Colin Summers are the only ones with starting experience and significant time in the trenches. Outside of them the group is as green as it gets.

Daniel Blitch and Antonio Ford are two of the other leading candidates to get significant reps with the possibility of filling the voids up front. After a good winter Dylan Heartsill will also be in the mix and Ramon Booi hopes to add depth after moving from nose guard to the offensive line, while injuries have slowed Cody Prebble's development.

"We've just got some good, athletic guys up front," Grobe said. "If you're going to start with some guys that maybe don't have as much experience, having good athletic ability is key. I think our guys got pretty good feet. The biggest issue for this group is not going to be the ability to get the job done. It's just whether they're tough enough to get the job done, because it's a brutal world down in the trenches in this league. You go against a lot of good players."

He added that the biggest challenge for Himebauch will be to develop the toughness necessary to face the weekly rigors of the ACC this fall.

"I think we'll have the ability, just whether we're tough enough to do it," Grobe said. "Typically the old guys are tough as pine knots, but when you're young you're just happy to be a part of it all, and you tend to get your helmet knocked sideways sometimes, so we've got to get these guys coming off the ball and playing with a little bit of an attitude."

Grobe thinks the new editions on the offensive line look the part, but for them it is just a matter of acting the part and a spring under Himebauch's tutelage will go a long way.

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