Big, bulky, menacing, tough, corn-fed, strong, these are just a few of the adjectives that casual football fans would ascribe to what they fill is the typical offensive lineman. However, one label that would probably seldom, if ever, be attributed to the behemoths of the o-line would be intelligent. Not that people think that lineman aren't smart, but the general perception of the duties of the average guard, tackle or center doesn't necessarily include book smarts or deep thinking to accomplish them. However, with that being said, athletes such as Jeff Linkenbach, II, UC's freshman offensive lineman, is looking to do his part to undermine any of these preordained notions of what it takes to be a top-performer at his position at a big-time college level.
"I think one of the biggest misconceptions about my position is that people think all we have to do is be bigger and stronger then the other guy, and push him around," said Linkenbach, who is making his way to the UC campus via Margeretta High School in Sandusky, Ohio. "We have to know a lot. Outside the quarterback, we pretty much have to know the offense better than anyone. We have to know where everyone is going to be on every play, read the defense and just do a whole lot more than push guys around."
While the soon-to-be freshman understands that you "don't have to be a rocket scientist to play the position," he does feel that having a strong intellectual capacity and being a good student can really aid in your ability to learn and be successful on the offensive line.
"You really have to have a strong understanding of the playbook. You have to know what is going on at all time. You have to learn on the fly, especially at this level. Guys are so big, strong and fast that you can't just overpower anybody. You have to know what is going on during every play."
For Linkenbach, his background of educational success/accolades has really helped him learn and become a top-line prospect for the Bearcat program. At 6-6 315, Linkenbach is built like the prototypical Midwestern, corn-fed juggernaut people have come to expect, but really the biggest, most developed part of his body is definitely his brain. Selected to the National Honor Society, and a member of the Academic Challenge Team, Linkenbach earned Conference All-Academic Team recognition for three-seasons during his standout high school career.
With that being said, brains and strength alone wont win this youngster playing time. Linkenbach has taken it upon himself to learn and develop the skills of the trade.
"You really have to know schemes, positioning and technique to be successful at this level. It is really important that you know what is going on at all time. In high school you were often times bigger, stronger or faster then the guys you were playing against, so some of the skills you used could slid at times. You could make mistakes and not see them really have an impact on your performance, because you were still able to do your job. That won't be the case in college, tackle really is a skill position at this level."
The early coaching that Linkenbach has received from offensive line coaches Mark Staten and Dan Roushar has gone a long way in helping to mold the youngster into a top-notch player, but he can't look past his high school experience as a two-way high school star to help explain the skills that he has displayed early-on in his college career.
"I think playing defense really taught me a lot about the moves and techniques that guys are going to try and use on me," said the three-year starter on defense and two-year starter on offense who won the best offensive and defensive lineman award for his high school's 2004 season. "I know from personal experience what guys like me would do in certain situations and how they would attack me, so I can use that experience to my advantage. I still have a lot to use, but I think my background at both positions will really help me."
While the Bearcats have just recently broke camp and there is still more than a week left until the regular season opener against Eastern Michigan (8/1), Linkenbach is beginning to make great waves amongst the UC coaches, players and fans as a player that could make a great impact on the program in the not-to-distant future. With the relative instability/unknown quality of this season's offensive line, Linkenbach's skill, smarts and size could make him a candidate to do great things early on his college career.