The surprising thing is that it's not Monreko Crittenden, Mark Pera or even Danny Lindsey, it has all started with sophomore offensive tackle Marcus McNeill. During Tuesday's practice, the 6-9 tackle began to yell in between plays and almost seemed to bark at the defense at times while in the huddle. A motivational tool to his teammates, McNeill's change in attitude has been fully supported by Coach Hugh Nall during the fall practice.
"He started that (Tuesday) and I told him in the meeting that I wanted it to continue and anytime any of you other guys want to jump in, jump in," Nall said. "That's what it's all about. That kind of gets things rolling. I'm excited about seeing that. That's the kind of offensive line that I want. They are finally starting to get some mentality and some attitude like I like."
Nall makes a point at Wednesday's practice with freshman tackle King Dunlap (77) as redshirt freshman guard Jonathan Palmer (79) listens.
Even though the attitude is definitely something Nall liked, the play of the group as a whole left a lot to be desired in his eyes. Despite controlling the line of scrimmage throughout the 50-play scrimmage, Nall said his linemen have plenty of work to do before the season opens on Aug. 30 against USC.
"I don't ever feel good about anything," Nall said. "I thought we did some good things, but I think when you watch the film there are going to be a lot of things that need to get better in a hurry. I thought they competed hard. We were missing some people today. Jarrod Britt (shoulder problem) didn't go but for a little bit and had to come out.
"Some of those young kids stepped in and competed hard. Everything I saw was great effort, but a lot of improvement on technique and we missed some assignments. For the most part I thought it was a good day."
If the offensive line was the unit that controlled play, then quarterback Jason Campbell was behind the wheel steering the machine. A much more focused and confident player this season, the junior has been impressive throwing the ball this fall, but Nall said the best part of his game is one many can't see or hear.
"He's really improved every day and really makes some good decisions, not just in the throwing game but in the running game as well," Nall said. "A lot of our running game is checked and he's done a really good job of that, not only checking us into the right play, but checking us into a better play. I have been impressed. He's done a good job."
Behind Campbell the race appears to be done with Josh Sullivan grabbing the reigns and running with the second team job. Showing an increased feel for the offense and passing game, Sullivan's play on Wednesday reinforced what he had shown all fall. Still, Nall said the race isn't over as two quarterbacks are battling for the number three spot.
"I think the Sullivan kid continues to come on. He's done some good things and some others aren't as good, but he's still mighty young and he's got a lot of talent. I think number three would be Hill (Wesley Hill) and Cox (Brandon Cox) right now. That's wide open. Once again, we grade the film and that might change. I saw some things that I didn't like from both of them and I saw some things I like."