Looking for Five

Mike Shula and Bob Connelly are looking for a five offensive linemen to feel good about and to take control of the starting spots on the most depth-challenged unit of the squad, but right now there are only a couple.

The linemen have been subject to more scrutiny over the past two days as players donned shoulder pads for the first time.

"Nothing's solid right now," Connelly said. "There's still a lot of room for improvement across the board. The left tackle position is wide open. The right guard position is wide open. The right tackle position is open. I don't know how wide open it is, but we've got to make sure that we feel awfully good about that spot."

Left guard Antoine Caldwell and center JB Closner have had impressive fall camp performances and have solidified themselves at this early stage

Sophomore Chris Capps and redshirt freshman Cody Davis were expected to battle for the left tackle spot entering fall camp, but Davis has been hampered with a hamstring strain since the beginning of the drills. And Capps has locked up the position in his absence, as the coaches would have hoped.

"There's a lot of room for improvement at (left tackle) but he's being forced to get a lot of good reps and ideally he continues to grow and get better," Connelly said. "Hopefully he's going to develop into the guy we're looking for. But he's not where he needs to be at this point in time. He had a little bit better of a day today than he did yesterday and he has to keep making strides."

Connelly said Capps must be more consistent, and continue to "have the urgency to protect the quarterback."

Mark Sanders has been working with the first unit at right guard, where he is battling with redshirt freshman B.J. Stabler for the spot. Stabler's short career has been filled with injuries, however and he sat out again Friday with soreness in his knee. He had arthroscopic surgery on the knee in the spring. Shula was impressed with Stabler's practices earlier in the week.

True freshman Marlon Davis has also worked at right guard.

"Right now he may be the one guy that might have a chance to get on the field" among the true freshmen offensive linemen, Shula said.

Kyle Tatum is a returning starter at right tackle in front of true freshmen Drew Davis (grayshirt) and Michael Johnson.

Michael Johnson has had a good camp so far," Connelly said. "He's showing some great signs. He has been working at both tackles. He's more comfortable with the right side but we have worked him at left tackle as well."

Among the other true freshmen offensive linemen, Evan Cardwell is working at center for the first time, and Scott Deaton is working at different positions. All of the freshmen need improvement in the mental aspects of playing offensive line.

"We're throwing a lot at them at a fast pace," Conelly said. "They're behind the eight-ball a bit mentally, but physically I am very pleased with what they are doing like what they are doing."

"We've got to continue to progress and bring some of these young guys along and add depth. We've seen improvement here and there, and will with more practice time. There's a lot of competition out there."


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