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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Same O-line, new scheme”

    Arizonas offensive line, Bill Wacholz (52), Jon Longacre (75) and Peter Graniello (76), duke it out in practice against the UAs defensive linemen. The embattled group of O-linemen has a new offense, which may help them forget the nightmares of last season.
    Arizona’s offensive line, Bill Wacholz (52), Jon Longacre (75) and Peter Graniello (76), duke it out in practice against the UA’s defensive linemen. The embattled group of O-linemen has a new offense, which may help them forget the nightmares of last season.

    In the seven years new offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes was an assistant coach at Texas Tech, a quarterback didn’t miss a start.

    The Arizona football team’s offensive line said they would like to keep that tradition alive.

    After a disappointing season in 2006 – losing a total 249 yards to sacks and seeing two quarterbacks get hurt- Arizona’s O-line could only do better.

    At least, that’s what it hopes will happen.

    But this year the line has something it lacked last season: experience.

    “”Last year, being a freshman and this year … everything just slows down for you as a player,”” said right tackle Eben Britton, one of the three freshmen to start on the line last season. “”It’s all about experience.””

    Added center Blake Kerley: “”Even after the first game last year, I felt like … I wasn’t new anymore. I felt like one of the guys, a veteran.

    “”A year just makes that much more difference.””

    Bill Bedenbaugh, Arizona’s new running game coordinator who came with Dykes from Texas Tech, said he hopes to see the experience of the line, though limited, translate to the field.

    “”The offensive line’s all about experience, seeing things over and over again,”” he said. “”I’ve got five or six guys who have seen it, so I expect them to be better this year.””

    Along with the rest of the line, Britton and Kerley, both sophomores, will be learning a new offense under the direction of Dykes and Bedenbaugh.

    “”It’s just a learning process right now, you know?”” Britton said. “”Getting everything going, learning to see blitzes and stuff like that. … We’re developing really well as an offense.””

    “”It’s a completely new system,”” he added. “”It’s just a matter of how fast we can learn it, get it down and master it as an entire line.””

    Dykes said the success of his offense, which features quick drops and emphasizes getting the ball out of the quarterback’s hands quickly, will hinge on the five up front.

    “”If we feel like our offensive line’s strong, then we’re going to throw the ball more down the field,”” he said. “”If it’s not, then we’re going to be a quick passing game, a lot of screens. We’ll see what we’re capable of doing.””

    Another priority of the new offense will be to protect its quarterback, Willie Tuitama, who endured three concussions throughout the season.

    “”We’ve just gotta progress this offense around (Tuitama) and make sure we protect him at all costs,”” said UA head coach Mike Stoops. “”We can’t get – in this offense – pressure on our quarterback all day. (If he is pressured), it’s going to be very difficult for him to be successful.””

    Kerley said the unit will be doing “”everything”” to protect its quarterback.

    “”We work protections constantly,”” he said. “”We work all our main protections against every single blitz that you could possibly think of.

    “”We’re making that a big priority this year.””

    If the Wildcats want to keep Dykes’ streak alive, he said they will need two things.

    “”It’s partially luck,”” Dykes said. “”But it’s also, you know, you try to teach the guys to get rid of the ball. When you’re getting rid of the ball, they have a chance to protect themselves.””

    So does Kerley anticipate his quarterback missing any games next season?

    “”No, unless something freak happens,”” he said. “”I don’t think he’s gonna miss anything.””

    – Tom Knauer contributed to this report

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