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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Experience proving to be an advantage for offensive line

Will+Ferguson+%2F+Arizona+Daily+Wildcat%0A%0AThe+University+of+Arizona+football+team+held+a+scrimmage+at+Kino+Memorial+Stadium+Saturday%2C+April+14%2C+2012.
Will Ferguson
Will Ferguson / Arizona Daily Wildcat The University of Arizona football team held a scrimmage at Kino Memorial Stadium Saturday, April 14, 2012.

When people hear the word “blindside”, they think of the successful, uplifting 2009 film about Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman Michael Oher.

That’s not what Arizona quarterback Matt Scott thinks about, at least not when he is on the football field.

The blindside, in football terms, is the side of the backfield where the quarterback has less-than-optimal vision when throwing the ball, or the side opposite his throwing arm. Scott is a right-handed quarterback, so whoever is playing left tackle is protecting his blind side.

In 2011, Mickey Baucus protected former quarterback Nick Foles’ blindside. This spring, however, the Wildcats have played without the 6-foot-8, 290 pound lineman and have been forced to mix-and-match all along the line. Chris Putton and Eric Bender-Ramsay have both been filling in at left tackle in the spring — both also have only played guard in their college career.

Left tackle isn’t the only spot on the line sans key personnel, as sophomore Fabbians Ebbele has been suspended all spring due to his role in a March campus-area brawl. Ebbele, who stands at 6-foot-8 and 310-pounds, received Sporting News Freshman All-America honors in 2011.

While the absence of two key linemen might seem problematic with head coach Rich Rodriguez’s installation of a new spread option offense and a clear lack of depth at quarterback behind Scott, the Wildcats have been able to weather the storm in large part because the entire unit has returned from 2011, and has game experience to boot.

“I don’t think we’ve been at full strength for the whole spring, but the whole group as a unit has gotten better progressively every day,” Scott said. “I think that’s a good sign and I think they’ll continue to get better through fall camp.”

Of all the linemen in camp, center Kyle Quinn is far and away the most experienced, seeing time in 33 games in his career and starting 13. With the lack of depth at the quarterback position — behind Scott this spring are two walk-ons and a converted receiver — protecting the team’s signal caller is more important than ever.

“This situation we have (at quarterback) is unique,” Quinn said. “You have to protect the quarterback at all costs anyway but with Matt’s situation, it gives us more of a motivation. Matt’s a great guy he’s a great leader, and he’s going to be great for us this year.”

Even with the injuries, Quinn isn’t too concerned as he thinks that all the experience the team gained last year, and in the spring, will be helpful going forward.

“Everybody that is on this O-line has played pretty much,” Quinn said. “We’ve got a lot of experience coming back, we have four seniors on the line so there’s a lot of leadership now. There’s no more throwing guys into the fire, everyone’s been tested, everybody’s ready to go.”

Among the players thrown into the fire this spring are Putton and Bender-Ramsay. Putton, a starter at left guard last season, actually played left tackle in high school so the transition isn’t as difficult as it might seem.

“They both (Bender-Ramsay and Putton) did really well filling in for Mickey,” senior guard Trace Biskin said. “It’s gonna be interesting when he comes back … Both of them have committed themselves to getting better and its shown on film.”

At right tackle, redshirt freshman Jacob Arzouman has been getting the majority of the playing time in place of Ebbele, and has done a pretty good job at the position. Both Biskin and Scott picked Arzouman as the lineman who has been the most impressive this spring.

This spring, running backs have often been cited as the position with the most depth and talent. Linebacker Jake Fischer agrees with that sentiment, but said the offensive line, thanks to the contributions of players like Putton and Arzouman, is right up there with the backs.

“Offensive line and the running backs are going to be the two top groups just since we have so much versatility in the backfield and we have everybody back from the offensive line last year,” Fischer said. “We have a lot of underclassmen who were getting a lot of reps and they really stepped it up too.”

Ka’Deem Carey, the likely starter at running back, concurs.

“I’m loving the O-line, they’re starting to get their blocking and stuff right,” Carey said. “I like the way they’re coming along.”

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