Bloomington – Pete Saxon is an old face in a new space.
A combination of injuries and ineffectiveness has prompted the IU coaching staff to try a whole slew of new combinations along the offensive line. The most recent shake-up has the 6'6", 310-pound Saxon sliding over from his long-time home at left guard to center.
The Plain City, Ohio, native had made 23 career starts at left guard including 18 straight dating back to the start of the 2007 season. But he's started the last two at center, a position he'd never played before the move.
"It's a tough switch," Saxon said. "I think center is the toughest position on the line. You have to make all the calls, you have to be able to communicate with people on both sides of the ball, so I have to get used to people on the right side of the ball."
Saxon termed his center debut against Iowa as "a little rocky" due to a couple of low snaps, and he believes things were better in last week's loss at Illinois. He's now readying for his third start at the new position, although he's not sure exactly who else will be joining him on the offensive line.
Redshirt freshman Andrew McDonald has replaced Saxon in the starting lineup at left guard the last two games, while sophomore Cody Faulkner has had an up-and-down debut season as a starter at right guard. But both were held out of practice Tuesday after getting "dinged" against the Illini, leaving sophomore Jarrod Smith and walk-on Mike Reiter to play next to Saxon on the No. 1 unit.
The injuries to McDonald and Faulkner are just the latest ailments to hit the offensive line. Dennis Zeigler has been lost for the season due to knee surgery, while Rodger Saffold (back), Reiter (knee), Alex Perry (ankle) and Saxon (ankle) have all dealt with various problems. That's contributed significantly to some relatively sub-par play from the offensive line as whole.
After rushing for at least 250 yards in the the season's first three games, IU has 118.5 yards/game since conference play started. IU's quarterbacks have also been sacked 10 times in the last four games, including four apiece by both Minnesota and Illinois.
While the injuries have played a part in some of the offensive line's problems, Saxon says the team can't use that as a crutch.
"You can't fall apart when someone new comes in and plays for you," Saxon said.
Saxon is doing what he can to keep the offensive line play from becoming one of the team's liabilities. Not only is he doing to that by making the position switch, but he's also trying to become more of a leader as well.
"It was kind of to the point that someone had to do it," Saxon said.
Saxon is a logical choice, considering his experience. The one problem he's had with being more vocal and critical of his teammates, though, is the fact he feels like a rookie in his own right at his new position.
"It was hard on me because I was switching to center, and it's hard to ask things of others when I switch positions and I'm messing things up," Saxon said. "It's hard to look at them and say ‘hey, you need to get things in gear and do it right,' when they can say look at the film and you did this wrong and that wrong.
"But the guys haven't taken it that way. Instead, they've been really responsive."
Old Face In a New Space
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