Offensive line play is a major key in the success of any team. Even with a sure NFL draft pick in Trevor Canfield and another player with the tools to play in the league things didn’t always look good for the Bearcats. But spring ball allows for players to open the coach’s eyes and with two spots open look for some battles during the process.
Trevor Canfield entered the
Khalil El-Amin leaves the program having never really shown his fully available skills. With the size coaches drool for the
RETURNING (** = Returning Starter)
Chris Jurek **
Jason Kelce **
So who are the key members of the returning lineman?
Chris Jurek, Jason Kelce and Jeff Linkenbach each have starting experience and should be expected to be the leaders of the this spring. But each knows any let up could find someone else taking their spot. Also keep in mind that offensive line coach Jeff Quinn looks for the best five guys and is not afraid to move guys around if he feels a change is needed.
Jeff Linkenbach may have entered the
Jason Kelce fought injuries last season but gained a ton of experience that should payoff even more this spring and next fall. Capable of playing center or both guards positions, Kelce uses a good football IQ along with great athletic ability to compete.
Chris Jurek is the center of attention and continued improvement in his direct snapping are key to his development as the point man of Brian Kelly’s spread attack. This is the last spring and a good spring should be expected along with Jurek showing senior leadership.
C.J Cobb was set for a lot of playing time before going down with a knee injury. Now fully healthy and in the best physical shape of his career, the Florida native looks ready to take the spot he wanted last fall and not look back.
Alex Hoffman also got some valuable experience last season and showed why he was the top offensive lineman coming out of
Sam Griffin has all the tools to be a great one except one. He’s lacked the physical size you’d hope to see for a player in the Big East along the offensive line. Any gains made in this area could set him up for a great spring. I don’t feel a lineman has to be a 300-pound guy to have success in the Big East. But being in the 250-pound range makes it almost too hard to have success. Great feet with technique allows Griffin to have success and this can be his spring to show why Jeff Quinn has always been excited about the New Jersey native.
Evan Davis showed signs of the future last fall and much should be expected of the Colerain product in his first spring on campus. Look for the coaches to really push
Take your pick of the rest of the members of the offensive line and you’ll see guys fighting each day not to be left behind the others. This spring is their chance to show the coaches they have what it takes to be considered a candidate for reps next fall before the next class reports.
These battles should not be overlooked as work in the strength program during the off season and the attitude shown in the spring season will open up chances they may have to push the key members of the group before they get left behind.
Will the Bearcats miss Canfield and El-Amin? Yes, any team would. But seven good players are ready to battle with the remaining players looking for breakout springs. The lower group of players needs to step up and give the team some depth in a position where the chance of injury is always possible.
Depth will arrive in the fall as Austin Bujnoch, Andre Cureton, Dan Sprague will each be given a look before any decision is made to play or sit. Bearcat Insider also projects that Sean McClellan will also see a move to the offensive line at some point.
PRE-SPRING GRADE: B
There are questions but things are looking good for the Bearcats as a solid group of players return and the Bearcats enter their third spring under Brian Kelly with a solid group.
C.J. Cobb is a player waiting to break through and after missing last season he’s hungry to show he’s capable of being a main guy along the offensive line.
NEEDS A BIG SPRING
T.J. Franklin, Craig Parmenter and Blake McCroskey need to step up and show they belong in the battle before the freshmen hit campus for next season.