Versatile Block Vying for Spot on O-Line

Many football players are specialists. They play one position only, and through repetition learn that position to near perfection. But there are others whose value to the team is measured by their versatility. Eric Block fits that description to a tee.

The 6'-3", 292 pound senior offensive lineman is playing three positions in practice this fall. He is in competition with Randall Hunt for a starting left guard spot, he is the backup to Ryan McDonald at center, and he also fills in at right guard when needed. He embraces his role.

"They play me at just about everything. Hopefully, I can play as hard as I can and just get some kind of playing time. I'm definitely the most experienced at center, so I can play if anything would happen to (McDonald), God forbid.

"As far as the other positions, I'm just here to help. If that means starting, that's great. If it means helping all the other guys on the line, that's ok too."

The New Orleans resident is accustomed to high heat and humidity, but his background prepares him less for Camp Rantoul than the hard work he and his teammates put in throughout the summer.

"New Orleans is a little bit hotter than this. You don't cope with it better, you just deal with it. I don't think I'm at an advantage at all.

"We're in great shape right now. Unfortunately, working as much as you can doesn't necessarily translate into blocking somebody. (Camp Rantoul practice) is a little bit different, you've got to get in shape here a little bit. But the work we do in the summer gets us ready for this."

Eric played in three games as a true freshman but only one his sophomore year as injuries set him back. He was the first sub off the bench this past season. Now, he has a good chance to be a starter.

"I played my freshman year, but I was definitely lacking confidence. Sophomore year, I still hadn't gotten there. I hadn't taken the next step that I needed to. Last year I think I really did.

"I think I played last year with a lot of confidence. Every time I went in there, I hope nobody even noticed I was in. They just thought it was one of our five starters in a great offensive line."

The average fan may not have noticed him, but Ohio State middle linebacker Jim Laurinitis did. During that classic game in Columbus last year, left guard Martin O'Donnell went down with an injury and Block replaced him. Eric's big hit on the Buckeye star helped allow Juice Williams to gain a first down and run out the game clock.

"I didn't even realize who I was blocking. Martin went down, and I had to come in. It was a play we had been working on. I knew the play beforehand, I saw him creeping up, and I just made the block. It just so happens Juice got all the yards we needed.

"It was a great feeling. I felt great afterward. I got to see myself on ESPN a little bit, I had people calling me from back home. It definitely was a big confidence boost."

The political science major started at center all spring while McDonald sat out to heal an injury. The offensive line struggled against a dominating Illini defensive front.

"In spring, we had a lot of holes. Ryan was out, Jon (Asamoah) was out for a lot of the spring, I think X (Fulton) might have gotten banged up at one point. We had a lot of young guys and freshmen in there, and we were getting banged up a little bit."

But rather than losing confidence, Eric believes the experience helped the offensive linemen mature and gain confidence.

"When you're working against a d-line as good as ours, you build a lot of confidence in guys that are taking their licks because they're going against one of the best d-lines around. Now we're back to full strength, and we're feeling good. We've got something to prove, and we feel real good about this offensive line."

Block speaks for the whole team when he discusses the difference between the Missouri game last year and the struggle upcoming in St. Louis to begin the 2008 season.

"We have a lot more confidence going into the season than we did last year. Last year, we were coming off a 2-10 season, and we hadn't won here. We didn't know how to win. We got into the Missouri game, and I think the second half we realized we're not too bad.

"Last year was a growing process, and we got better and more confident. We're a more comfortable team now than we were against Missouri last year. I'm sure that's going to help us."

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