"They're so much better than I was coming in," said senior offensive lineman Eddie Keele. "I didn't know anything coming in and these guys are already to where I was after two years with what they know and their technique. I've really been impressed with all of them."
Time to Develop
The ideal for any offensive line is to have a group that can develop for one to two full years before taking the field. Offensive line play requires a higher degree of unity than any other position. While the starting offensive line in 2006 is primarily made up of players who were thrust early action, the incoming class of 2006 should have ample time to develop before seeing action in a game.
"I'm excited for these guys," said senior Jake Kuresa of his new teammates. "You always want to play early, but looking back I wish I would have come into the situation that they have with guys ahead of them that they can look to and practice with before having to play. Looking back, I wish I would have had that."
The new group is learning and watching intently as they prepare to front the Cougar offense in the coming years. With seniors such as Keele and Kuresa in front of them they are taking full advantage the learning time.
"Those guys are awesome," said Braden Hansen. "I'm learning so much from them. Eddie especially since he plays tackle which is where I'm practicing. Jake has been great, staying after with us to work with us on footwork, but Eddie is the guy I look to most in learning how to play. Both of those guys are awesome."
While Hansen is watching Keele intently, Keele is watching him in turn and is impressed with what he is seen in his protégé.
"He knows so much more than I did coming in," said Keele. "For example it took me a few years to master or even know what a trigger kick was in providing pass protection and Braden already knew that. Knowing that will give him a jump start in becoming a great lineman, which he will become."
Hansen and most of the others have been seeing most of their reps together with the third unit, but every now and again they will appear with the twos and even the ones in any given practice. Such was the case with Ryan Freeman playing left guard with the ones during yesterday's afternoon practice session.
"I wasn't expecting it," said Freeman. "It was exciting for me, and I was just like ‘Oh boy, I better not screw it up,' Playing there was definitely a great experience today. The older guys are just great in working with us. They're always talking to us and working with us, which is something I really appreciate."
Picking them Apart
The new offensive linemen are getting picked apart at every practice by offensive line coach Jeff Grimes and their fellow offensive linemen. While the teaching and development is intense and very detail oriented, the incoming lineman are thankful for it and know they will benefit because of it.
"I love Coach Grimes," said Hansen. "He's a big reason why I came here. He teaches you so much. Every meeting, every workout and every practice I'm learning so much. I'm learning new things every day and it's helping me."
"Coach Grimes picks us apart," added Freeman. "He's tough and he's a hardnosed guy, but he knows more about technique than anyone I've ever been around. He'll be so precise in how much we need to bend, how much we need to drop and just everything that you wonder how it will help. What I'm learning is that if you do exactly what he asks that it does help a ton. Every minor detail helps out a great deal and that is what Coach Grimes is great at."
While the ideal is for these incoming six to take time to master their position before taking the field, they area all competitive athletes who want to play now.
"I want to be on the field," said Hansen. "I want to break the two-deep, be on the traveling squad and get my feet wet, so I can have that when I get back from my mission. That's my goal. If that doesn't happen, then I'll be working hard on the scout team. Whatever happens I'll be ready to work as hard as I can."
"Just wherever they think I can best help the team," said Freeman regarding when he wants to get playing time. "If they want me on scout team, then that's where I'll be. If they think I'm ready to break the two-deep, then I'll be working just as hard. Whatever they want and wherever I can best help the team is what I want."