One of the biggest struggles for the Arizona football squad in the 2010 season was the play of the offensive line. Not only did the unit fail to protect quarterbacks Nick Foles and Matt Scott consistently, the group also had trouble opening up running lanes for the Wildcats' running backs towards the end of the season.
UA loses all five starters along the line and will be forced to replace those players with a group of inexperienced, but talented linemen. Along the interior, there are a couple of players with game experience, but nothing significant enough to relieve the concern around the unit.
At center, UA returns Kyle Quinn, who started in the Alamo Bowl in place of the injured Colin Baxter. Quinn showed signs of a player still learning his way in the bowl game, but his big game experience should help him in the spring and fall practices. Given the lack of another experienced center on the roster, it should be expected that Quinn will start the season with the first unit.
Backing up Quinn will most likely be JUCO transfer Addison Bachman. At 6-foot-4, 290-pounds, Bachman fits the size of the prototypical center usually seen in the Wildcats' offense. His JUCO experience should help in the event that he has to see the field early in the year.
At guard, Chris Putton returns as the only player at that position that saw the field in 2010. Putton was solid in his spot duty a season ago and is an early favorite to win a starting job at one of the guard spots. At 6-foot-4, 295-pounds, Putton brings the perfect build for guard and could potentially provide UA with solid run blocking along the interior assuming he wins the starting job.
Eric Bender-Ramsay stands at 6-foot-6, 325-pounds and is another favorite to start in 2011. Bender-Ramsay is still learning his way as an offensive lineman at the college level but his mammoth size is going to make it hard for the Arizona offensive staff to keep him off the field. As long as he continues to develop and improve, Bender-Ramsay should see plenty of the field in 2011.
Carter Lees is another player that should provide depth and could even challenge for a starting job. Another big body at 6-foot-5, 320-pounds, Lees could be a road grader who opens big holes for Arizona's running backs. Lees will have to battle to win the job, but he should at least see the field in a backup role if he happens to lose out on a starting position.
Jake Baratz is another player in the mix. Baratz was tried at center a year ago but will likely work strictly as a guard barring an injury to Quinn or Bachman. Baratz stands at 6-foot-5 and is listed at 282 pounds, although he is likely bigger than that now. He has worked hard to get into the rotation, so it wouldn't be a surprise to see him on the field in 2011 in some fashion.
Trace Biskin shifted over to guard last offseason and has yet to crack the rotation. Biskin has only seen the field sparingly and has found it difficult to surpass the players in front of him on the depth chart.
Biskin will be a junior in 2011, so his chance to make an impact is shrinking. However, he played well in the Spring Game and now has a legitimate chance to see playing time.
Incoming 2011 prospect Jacob Arzouman could battle for a backup job along the interior line if he shows up and impresses the staff, but it is likely that he will redshirt as a true freshman.
Along with the offensive tackle position, the interior line is essential to the success of not only the UA offense, but the entire team. The line must improve from its performance last year where it yielded 32 sacks on the season, as well as a rushing average of roughly five yards per carry from the beginning of November until the end of the season.
If the young linemen can come out and prove to its naysayers that it is ready to improve on the unit's shortcomings that plagued it at the end of the 2010 campaign, then the rest of the team should be in much better shape to win football games.
Evaluating the Roster: Interior OL
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