Freshman O-Tackle Shows Unusual Promise

The player that could easily be called the offensive surprise of summer practice is offensive tackle Sam Griffin. Bearcat Insider spoke with Sam and his position coach, Jeff Quinn, after their final practice at Higher Ground.

National signing day for college football is the first Wednesday in February, and not long after inking the high school talent to national letters of intent, the questions begin.  One of the most frequently asked questions by fans is-"Which freshmen can help next season?"


After perusing the Cincinnati recruiting class of 2007, even the most astute Bearcat fan would have been laughed at if he suggested a 6' 5"/240 pound true freshman offensive tackle would position himself to see playing time this year, but that is exactly what has occurred.  San Griffin from Englewood, New Jersey is presently the #2 left tackle behind senior Digger Bujnoch, and the kid is getting rave reviews from his position coach, Jeff Quinn.  "One of the things I look for is a guy with a lot of smarts and plays with a lot of heart.  Size and weight don't matter as much as those other intangibles that Sam possesses.  That's why we're giving him a look."


Griffin was the lightest of the six offensive linemen signed in 2007, but the 245 pounder caught Coach Quinn's eye early in camp.  "I've asked the kids to watch the game through my eyes, and Sam has recognized the things I'm teaching and displayed those on the field.  When you see that as a coach, you have to give the kid a look."


Even though Sam is with the #2 group now, Coach Quinn cautions that there are no guarantees a true freshman will remain there.  "As a true freshman there are a lot of things to learn from an assignment standpoint and fundamentals.  It's also a lot more mental because defenses change their configurations quickly and you have to be a quick thinker.  A true freshman doesn't have the experience to think as quickly, and it holds them back a little bit."  But Sam is hoping to continue to impress by relying on what got him in this position.  "It's been hard work.  I've tried to work hard every day."


In order to reach his potential, the Don Bosco Prep star knows he'll need to add weight to his 6' 5" frame next season.  "I honestly want to come in at 280.  I know it will be hard, but you have to aim high."  For now, Coach Longo has his next pet project teaming with his current one.  Sam has been instructed to sit next to Jason Kelce at all meals.  Jason was a 240 pound linebacker last spring and now lines up as a 280 pound center.  "That's very true.  I sit next to Kelce, and I eat until I can't eat any more.  Than I eat some more after that."  The goal is to get Sam up to 280 pounds without losing any of his 4.8 forty speed.


Although Sam has shot to the head of the true freshmen offensive line class, Coach Quinn is far from disappointed with the other five rookies-Craig Parmenter, Blake McCroskey, T. J. Franklin, Frank Becker, and Alex Hoffman.  "I'm very pleased with them. They're showing me they want to learn. They love Cincinnati and want to play for the Bearcats.  That's really what we're looking for in our young players."  Redshirting freshmen offensive linemen is the norm in college football.  In fact, none of Cincinnati's present offensive linemen lettered as true freshmen, but Coach Quinn has no problem changing that trend if Sam's play warrants it.  "The best five will play, and the best ten will be our back-ups."


In high school, Sam played defensive line for his freshman and sophomore seasons before switching over to offense for his final two years.  He thought the Bearcats might return him to the more glamorous position of defensive end and laughed about his wishful thinking.  "Yeah, I thought there was a chance."  But the young man who plays the piano and drums looked too good to Coach Quinn as an offensive lineman.  "I saw it on film and felt he could be a really good one."


With his mother expected to be in attendance for the August 30th opener against Southeast Missouri State, the undersized freshman would like nothing better than giving Digger Bujnoch a rest at left tackle.  "If my name is called, I'm ready to go to work."  But the chemical engineering major also knows there are more important needs than just his playing time.  "I want to come out with a W.  That's why I came to the University of Cincinnati.  I want to win championships; win the Big East.  That's what it's all about."


In the long run, Sam might be better off redshirting like his classmates.  He might even end up being a four year starter on the offensive front if he does.  But he's faced one of the better defensive lines in the Big East on a daily basis and more than held his own.  He thinks his time could be now, and as strange as it may seem, he could be right.   


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