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The Daily Wildcat

 

Offensive Line battles through injuries and inexperience

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Tyler Baker
Tyler Baker / The Daily Wildcat

Offensive lines in football are often the unsung heroes of a successful team. They battle in the trenches each play to give both the quarterback time to pass and the running back a hole to run through.

Earlier this summer, Arizona’s o-line took a hit when it lost center Carter Wood for the season with a chronic foot injury.

Wood, who was projected to start, will be replaced by senior Cayman Bundage at center. Bundage is moving over from the left guard position.

Despite this setback, offensive line coach Jim Michalczik has been happy with the work his o-line has put in.

“As a coach, you always want to take the next step,” Michalczik said at Sunday’s media day.

“I’m happy with how we’re working and I’m happy how we’re competing. I’m looking forward to [seeing] how we develop this year.”

Michalczik has also been pleased with Bundage’s transition from guard to center.

“Cayman’s done a good job of picking up center,” Michalczik said. “He’s getting more consistent with his snapping, which is kind of opening some things up and making more competition at that guard spot now.

Your center is probably your most athletic guy, quickest guy, and he’s got to be a good leverage player, kind of like wrestling, because that guy is about two inches away from you sometimes and he’s about 330 pounds.”

Meanwhile, Freddie Tagaloa is the favorite to win the left tackle position. Tagaloa transferred to the UA from California last year and redshirted. He started seven games in two years for Cal.

Though Tagaloa hasn’t played football in over a year, Michalczik liked what he saw in Fall camp.

“He’s got all the tools,” Michalczik said. “In the scrimmage [Saturday], things clicked in the run game where he wasn’t just blocking guys; he was moving them.”

Tagaloa is part of a versatile and athletic o-line that contributes to a fast paced offense. Last season, Arizona averaged 464 yards and 34.5 points a game, both among the highest in the conference.

Quarterback Anu Solomon benefited from a mostly stable o-line, throwing for 3,793 yards and running for another 291.

Running back Nick Wilson also tallied another 1,375 yards on the ground.

As far as preparation for the protection of Wilson and Solomon, Michalczik believes the offensive line will prepare for the upcoming season in the same way as last year.

“Obviously those guys did a great job. For us, it’s more about us doing a great job,” Michalczik said. “We don’t want anyone getting to the quarterback. Sacks is a tough one because sometimes it’s not always the line, but we have a goal that we’re not going to give up any o-line sacks.”

Michalczik was also impressed with his freshmen on the team. In particular, he said Alex Kosinski is one player who will be in the mix to be an impact player on the line.

“He graduated early and came in the spring,” Michalczik said. “Meanwhile, the other guys are still trying to figure [the system] out.”

As the season progresses, the impact of Wood’s injury and ability of the o-line to adapt will truly come to light.


Follow Kyle Hansen on Twitter.


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