I’ve had a lot of folks asking me about how the offensive line has looked so far. I had a chance to interview line coach Will Friend this past week on just that subject. Following are some of his observations so far:
Q: Who has had the best spring?
A: [Kenarious] Gates has had a good spring so far. We’re not far in it yet, but he’s had the best spring. The rest of the guys need to elevate like he’s done so far.”
Q: What’s the main improvement you’re looking for?
A: “Number one, with this group being younger, your offensive line has to be physical. That’s where your team gets its physicality from. I think they’ve got to be able to improve that part of it. Last year’s group, when they came to the park they were physical. That was the big thing they brought and that goes a long way as games go on. This group needs to be tougher, to play more physical, to be better on assignments. . . . And, of course, we’ve got to find some people we can count on.”
Q: Looks like junior guard Dallas Lee has been getting some work at center. What’s the thought there? .
A: “He’s done it before. He’s still got a long way to go on because he really didn’t do it at all last year. He snapped for us, but he didn’t do it in live action in a practice or game. But I think he’s got to get used to exchanging the ball to the quarterback and after that it’s blocking. [David] Andrews has done some good things. We’re just moving people around.”
Q: Do you have a starting five yet?
A: “No, not a first five. Nobody’s separated themselves with the exception of Ken Gates. Right now if you were going to play a game I know he would be there. [Chris] Burnette has done some good things, too. We’re just trying to get all the pieces together.”
Q: How is JUCO transfer Mark Beard holding up and fitting in?
A: “It’s a lot going on right now. We didn’t pull back on anything we’re installing. It’s a good thing for a midyear guy to come in early. But at the same time, when you’re the only one, the show keeps on going for everybody else. So it’s kind of hit him a bit. But he’ll get better as the spring goes on. It’s kind of spinning fast. He’s just got to keep it from beating him and he’ll be all right. . . . We’re working him at left guard. And he’s worked some at tackle, but mainly left guard.”
Q: Would you say Watts Dantzler or Austin Long is ahead at right tackle?
A: “Both of them have worked with the 1s, both of them have had good practices, both of them have done some good things. We’ll just continue to hash that out.”
Q: How has Austin Long looked? . . .
A: “He’s gotten better. He’s not where we want him yet but he’s gotten better.”
Q: Do you anticipate freshmen John Theus and Greg Pyke competing for playing time later this summer?
A: “Can we wait until after spring ball? [laughs] Right now we’re just trying to see what we’ve got with these guys. We’ve got to get them going in the right direction. We’ll go from there.
“I think both freshmen we got are real talented guys. I think they’re good athletes. They’re tough guys and they’re big. They’re going to get a shot. That’s one thing these guys have to understand, that right now is their shot with those guys not being there. They’ve got to make the most of it, because those two are going to get a shot when they get in here. That’s why we signed them.”
Q: What’s your expectations for Kolton Houston?
A: “We’re expecting Kolton to be a good player for us this year. He’s a good athlete, he’s got good strength, he can run well. He’s probably the best athlete of the guards that we’ve got, to be honest with you. If he can continue to get tougher and continue to improve, he’s going to be a good player for us. He’s got a ways to go now but he’s got a chance.”