Offensive line coach Jim Michalczik believes it is very important not just because of their skill level, but also because they act as the anchor of the line. Often times, we talk about returning players, but the reality is that if those returning players are not good, it is meaningless. Well, Arizona returns Baucus and Ebbele and they might be the two best players on the line. Michalczik is still going to coach them up, but they aren't going to bring about the same amount of stress and there is not nearly the worry that there may be with others.
Which player is most likely to surprise?
We're at the point where it might not be much of a surprise, but Jacob Alsadek has a very good chance of starting. He already came into college with the size, but he has lost some bad weight and put on muscle and looks to be in great shape. Not only that, but Alsadek is a student of the game and you can make a case that he works just as hard, if not harder, than anyone. He is a versatile lineman that can play multiple positions, but he has really made an impact at guard. The coaching staff loves the way he plays until the final whistle, so while not a lot of people were talking about him going into the spring, there is a good chance he will start.
Is there depth on the offensive line?
The idea depth that Arizona wants is to basically have two offensive lines. It is not there yet, but there is certainly some depth. Carter Wood, Lene Maiava, and T.D. Gross are just three names that the coaches have been happy with this spring. If Arizona can get a few more on their level, the Wildcats will have the depth on the line that they want. There is still some hope that a younger player can come in and make an impact right away, but that is very difficult to do at this position. A wildcard in all of this is Kaige Lawrence, who continues to work through an injury. He is not going to start, but the coaching staff would be ecstatic if he can add some solid depth.
What positions are up for grabs?
Right now, the position that is up for grabs is guard. Jacob Alsadek and Lene Maiava are competing for the spot and Alsadek probably has an edge right now. In a way it doesn't really matter who wins the job, because both are going to play. The other positions are pretty set, as Cayman Bundage has continued to quietly impress the coaching staff. If we had to pick a second spot that can be won, it would probably be his, but we don't see it happening. In addition to guard, real competition is to see which players will get in the rotation beyond the starters.
What are your expectations for the line?
There is no reason to believe that the line won't be good. It returns numerous starters, has seen younger guys like Alsadek make progress, and is well coached. Arizona may not have a great run game right now because we don't know who the back will be, but whoever wins the job is going to have solid protection and holes to go through. As far as rushing numbers go, the Wildcats are not going to put up what they did last year with Ka'Deem Carey and that's okay. As long as the average yards per carry are respectable and the big plays remain, Arizona will be fine. Our guess is that the line will do its job and there won't be many complaints.