A Changing Of The Nose Guard

Last Monday, Coach Mendenhall and his staff asked offensive lineman Garrett Reden if he would be willing to try playing nose guard to help shore up the position in the wake of Russell Tialavea's season-ending injury. On Wednesday, more changes were made at the position.

Offensive linemen Garrett Reden suffered a minor injury on Wednesday and was seen going back into the locker room. After two days of trying out at the nose guard spot, he suffered a shoulder injury and has since been switched back over onto the offensive side of the ball.

"Coach Mendenhall came over and got me this morning," said Reden. "He thanked me for coming over onto the defense and just said that they were going to move me back over onto the offense. I'm just grateful they gave me a chance to come over for a few days from the offense to see if I could do it. They told me that I would probably have a better shot with playing on the offense and playing there."

As an offensive lineman, Reden is a valuable asset to the group. He is being billed as one of the top eight to possibly travel with the team, which only verifies his importance and skill level as an offensive lineman within the group.

"I'm just grateful that they gave me a chance to try," said Reden. "I do think that the experience, even though it was for two days, will help me improve as an offensive lineman. I was able to learn some techniques and things that I think will be beneficial for me as an offensive lineman."

Moving such a player is risky business, knowing that whoever comes into the nose guard position will be in a three-man rotation, which means limited time. The difficulty right now is finding someone who can actually contribute to the position without wasting any future potential just for the sake of finding bodies to fill a hole immediately.

With Reden moving back over to the offensive side of the ball, big 6-foot-3-inch, 327-pound Rick Wolfley has now been given the chance to perform at the positon.

"I think he did really well out there," said Reden. "It was really fun to see him out there and he's one of my best friends on the team, so I had a smile on my face seeing him out there doing so well. He's a big body out there that was able to plug up the hole."

"They just told me that I was a big body and that I'm going to be hard to move," said Wolfley. "I played defense in high school and actually played better on defense. I'm glad they're allowing me to have a shot, and I'm doing what I can every day to get better. I think they'll let me have a shot to make an impact."

While Wolfley has experience on both sides of the ball, he knows there are different skill sets required to be effective at either position.

"I think in order to play on the defensive line, you need it all," said Wolfley. "Right now I'm definitely not as quick as I used to be. I've put on a lot of weight since I got here and kind of needed that for the offensive line. I think I need that a little bit for the nose guard position, but I also think I need to really work on my footwork because on the inside you have to be a lot quicker than, say, I was at my guard spot on the offensive line. I think I'll have to get more with Coach Omer in the weight room and then get my footwork down more and then I can probably handle it.

"On offense you have to be able to read [the defenders] and it's a little harder, in my opinion, to deal with these quick defensive ends and to try and stay in front of them. As a defender you're trying to fight to just get around the guy. You don't do that as an offensive guy, so it takes a little more skill, I think, to try and keep someone in front of you [rather] than just trying to get around someone.

"On the defensive line you don't want anyone in front of you, so to me it's a lot easier to try and move somebody than to try and keep somebody in front of me because my movement isn't quite as quick."

"Wolfley has been developed well under Coach Grimes and Coach Weber already," said Coach Mendnehall. "Now there is a pursuit element to the defense that is new to him with obviously new assignments, but we feel he is going to be capable and is going to help us."

Coach Mendenhall gave Reden three days to perform to see if he could manage the nose guard position. According to Wolfley, coaches are going to try and develop him at the position right up until game day against the Arizona Wildcats on September 1.

"Right now, I've spoken with all of the coaches and told them that I want to really play the position and give it all I've got," said Wolfley. "They told me that I have two-and-a-half weeks to prepare for Arizona and that they'll see where I'm at, so as far as I know they're going to try until the first game of the season."

With the depth on the offensive line being at around 14 players fighting for a starting spot, the chances for quick playing time might not be feasible, especially given the level of talent. Much like Reden felt, Wolfley feels the switch might allow him the chance to see the field through the nose guard rotation this year.

"I think if I can get into shape and work hard every day during practices to show the coaches that I can do it…I can get into the rotation this year," said Wolfley. "The coaches have said that if I continue to come in and do what I did today, then I'm going to help the team. When I was on offense, I wasn't even in the rotation. I feel this is just a better fit for me already than on offense."

How does Wolfley feel he performed on his first day as a defensive linemen in today's Cougar fall training camp?

"I feel I did well for the first day," Wolfley said. "As far as I know that's what the coaches feel as well. Coach Kaufusi said to me today, ‘Hey, I'm impressed and you'll probably be with us.' Those were his words and that's what he said, but we'll see. I'm really excited and I want to see the field, and if I work hard I will."

Coach Mendenhall agrees with his assistant defensive line coach's assessment of Wolfley's first-day performance.

"He had a very good first day," said Coach Mendenhall. "He's definitely capable of playing the spot and he's going to help our team. I was impressed."

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