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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    “O-Line looks to provide better protection, cut down sacks”

    Everything in the game of football can be taught, except for experience.

    Despite having linemen that had seen more game time, the Wildcats decided to start three redshirt freshmen – center Blake Kerley, guard Daniel Borg and tackle Eben Britton – last season in hopes of conditioning them for future success.

    The result: Arizona allowed 31 sacks and finished 115th nationally in total offense.

    “”You just have to start the best five guys, no matter how old they are,”” said junior

    We know what each other’s tendencies are, we know the other one’s weaknesses, and it’s just like we know exactly what the next guy is thinking.

    -Blake Kerley

    Bill Wacholz, who will likely serve as a backup this season. “”We all get a fair shot. We all compete our butts off. Any time you are younger it’s extremely difficult, so those guys were just learning on the fly last year.””

    This season Arizona will likely start all three again, in addition to three-year starting tackle Peter Graniello and junior guard Joe Longacre, who has started most of the past two seasons.

    Kerley said that having all five starters back is a major confidence boost for the unit, which has started a total of 78 games.

    “”We know each other so well now,”” Kerley said. “”We know what each other’s tendencies are, we know the other one’s weaknesses, and it’s just like we know exactly what the next guy is thinking.””

    Last year’s freshmen, in particular, want to demonstrate their readiness.

    “”We just weren’t very big, very strong, and we didn’t have that much experience,”” Kerley said of 2006. “”But now we do, and I think we have come along quite a bit since then.””

    The hiring of offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes last winter meant the line had to digest a brand-new spread offense that will be based primarily in the passing game.

    Although the line struggled mightily with pass protection, a scheme that has UA receivers licking their chops may be a positive thing for the men up front as well.

    Where quarterback Willie Tuitama took primarily five-step drops a year ago, which each required 5-6 seconds of protection, the new system will encourage shorter drops and quick releases.

    Wacholz said last year’s offense left linemen “”a little more limited than they are right now.””

    “”The way our blocking was set up last year was a little tougher on us when it came to picking up assignments,”” he said. “”The spread offense makes it a lot easier for the offensive line to pick up blitzes and read the defenses.””

    Dykes said he thought the returning line would be more productive in the new system, as they would be more capable of utilizing the new diversity of plays being called.

    “”We do a lot of things offensively to try and keep the defense honest so they can’t just rush the passer all the time,”” Dykes said. “”We do things like draws, screens, shovel passes and that kind of stuff, so it slows the rush down a little bit.

    “”That, combined with our quick passing game as well, will hopefully lead to less sacks.””

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