State of the Roster: Offensive tackle

Arizona is more experienced at tackle, but still has some questions. Read on for a closer look at the position, including expectations.

A season ago, the offensive line was one of the team's biggest question marks heading into the 2011 season. It was a bumpy start for the young, inexperienced group, but the unit came together towards the end of the season and improved its performance. Now, in 2012, Arizona is more experienced along the line and heads into spring camp a bit more comfortable than it was just seven months ago.

The real big question is what is going to happen with Fabbians Ebbele. As a redshirt freshman in 2011, Ebbele was UA's best offensive lineman and earned Freshman All-American honors from The Sporting News this past season. Unfortunately for the lineman, his status with the team is unknown after a recent altercation at a house party that involved several teammates.

If Ebbele ends up back with the team, it should come with a huge sigh of relief from the rest of the squad. At 6-foot-8, 310-pounds, Ebbele is a huge body at tackle and is on pace to develop into one of the best offensive lineman in the Pac-12. With Ebbele on the field, the offensive line is a much better unit.

On the other end of the line will most likely be Mickey Baucus. As a redshirt freshman, Baucus improved steadily throughout the season in both pass protection and run blocking. Another big body at 6-foot-8, 290-pounds, Baucus provides quickness and strength along the edge and could develop in one of the better tackles in the conference over the next few seasons.

Jack Baucus returns to tackle after switching positions multiple times over the past 12 months. After spending time at tight end, he switched to offensive tackle prior to the start of the 2011 season. In the middle of the campaign, Baucus was switched to h-back for the final few games, but was more or less a non-factor. With his frame, tackle is probably a better fit for him and if Ebbele misses any time, Baucus needs to be ready to step in.

Trent Spurgeon saw some action in his redshirt freshman season as a backup and would like to factor in a little more as he garners more experience. With a new staff in place, Spurgeon has an opportunity to make an impression and will battle for playing time or a starting job depending on the status of Ebbele.

Lene Maiava provides depth after redshirting in his freshman campaign. Maiava entered college at 6-foot-5, 277-pounds and if he has added the needed muscle, he could provide the Wildcats' offense with a quality backup at offensive tackle.

Arizona also receives an offensive tackle via the 2012 recruiting class. 6-foor-5, 255-pound T.D. Gross from Lakeside (Calif.) Santana will need to add weight before stepping on the field. Ideally he will redshirt in 2012 in order to get better prepared for the grind of college football, so the hope is that the players in front of him stay health.

The offensive tackle position has the potential to be a strength for Arizona in 2012. It really depends on the status of Ebbele and the growth of the other young players at the position. If Ebbele can make it back and the rest of the tackles can develop at the same rate they did a year ago, offensive tackle shouldn't be a position of worry in the upcoming season.

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