After a promising start, the play of the offensive line has been lackluster in the last several games mainly because of inexperience play from three main freshmen contributors in Mohetau, Jake Kuresa and Eddie Keele.
So is laughter the best medicine? Adds Stephens: "Jake doesn't laugh, but he likes to talk it up when he's dominating. He has more of a bounce to him when he's completing his assignments. Both these guys (Mohetau and Kuresa) are as physically dominating as any offensive linemen I've ever seen. We just need them to get to the point where they don't hesitate one bit in their assignments and then we'll kick butt. The same goes for all of us."
After watching and analyzing the offensive line troubles the past few weeks, it's clear that they are not getting beat physically by anyone. Most every play that is blown up behind or at the line of scrimmage is not because offensive linemen are lying on the ground after being pushed back, but rather because they missed their mobile blocking assignments.
"We're hesitating too much. The second you hesitate as an offensive lineman, you're done. You can't think about what you're supposed to do after the ball is snapped. You just have to complete your assignment without hesitation, even for a split second," Stephens continued.
Stephens added he's not just talking about his freshmen mates. "All of the guys are hesitating too much. I think that Scott (Jackson), Quinn (Christensen) and myself are hesitating too much and trying to make up for what we believe the young guys will miss. What we're finding out is that we need to let the young guys alone and just worry about ourselves because they're getting it. We need to just let them do their thing – and they're doing that."
After a great start against Georgia Tech, Stephens said the offensive linemen were very confident, but they've lost some of that swagger in recent games. "I just remember against Georgia Tech looking around the huddle and thinking that nobody could stop us. Georgia Tech has proven to be a fairly decent team. They've played some tough teams and played them well. We need to get that confidence back, somehow, and I think playing against a (good) defense like San Diego State will help with that."
He believes they will rebound against San Diego State. "For one thing, we aren't taking these guys for granted. I hate to say it, but looking back, I think we took Stanford too lightly thinking that they were a weak defense. I feel that we're tons more focused as a unit this week since we know their front is very good."
Another reason for their recent offensive line challenges? "It's not just that we're making little mistakes, but it seems as if we're making those mistakes at the worst possible times during the game. When we're close to the red zone is when we seem to be making assignment mistakes or picking up stupid penalties. Stuff like that can't happen. It's a killer," Stephens said.
With five games under their collective belts, they are now settling on a firm starting unit playing the entire game. Quinn Christensen and Ofa Mohetau are the new starters. "I think we gain a little more experience at tackle, but at the same time we get more inexperience at guard, but Ofa is so talented that it doesn't really matter because there are so many times when he mentally screws up, because he'll physically make up for it.
"Coach Reynolds tells us that no matter what, you need to hit someone. If you're unsure in a situation that you have to do something, you have to hit somebody even if it's the wrong guy. There's too many times this year when some of us, myself included, just don't hit anybody because we hesitate and that can't happen."
Stephens is emphatic the offensive line is coming together and will be very good by the end of the season. "I think me and Scott (Jackson) have severely underestimated Jake and Ofa. If there's one position that is the most difficult position to adjust to out of high school, it's the offensive line.
"Ofa and Jake have done so much to impress me on how fast they've learned. We just need to let them do their thing and we'll be fine. They're studs and they can physically dominate anyone they go up against. We're going to be fine. We'll step it up."
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