Blum: How has practice gone for your offensive lineman?
Cotton: That's probably the biggest emphasis we have in the spring is finding out who he have up front. We've got some guys returning that have played, but we've got a lot of guys who have not played. So we have to identify hopefully seven or eight guys that we can go into the fall with. And maybe get a couple more as we bring guys in. They're working hard; they've really brought a good attitude to spring football. We're by no means there yet, but they've got a good work ethic right now and I think they really care about getting better."
Blum: Specifically what would you like the lineman to work on?
Cotton: We've got to be a more dominant front as far as being able to run the football. We can't blame it all on injuries to backs or a back that's not full speed. You've got to open up holes; you have to be more physically dominant. And that's what we've spent the spring trying to become.
Blum: Do you talk to guys like Brant, Zehr and Stephenson about stepping up in their final year?
Cotton: Some of those guys have really stepped up. It'd be nice to have Stephenson out there, he's out with the shoulder surgery but he's still a part of us in individual drills. Some of those guys are our best guys. They've got to bring some other guys along and improve their game as well. This whole deal is about becoming more physical. This will be my third year here and we've got to climb a little further up that mountain as far as being a more physical front. Because, we were not near physical enough as a run-blocking team last year.
Blum: What do Zehr, Brant and the rest of the experienced guys mean to the program?
Cotton: Not very often do you get guys that have the chance to be four year players, and not just four year players, but four year starters. So obviously, a lot is going to be expected from them in the leadership area because if you've played that much you have to assume ownership and that's probably the biggest thing that we are counting on those guys. When you lose seniors the new senior class has to step up. Its time for those two guys who have played 1500-2000 snaps to take some ownership and a leadership role of the football team.
Blum: How have the Fisher twins adapted in their first off-season?
Cotton: We've moved Paul now to guard instead of tackle. We're just trying to identify and put our best five guys on the field. And right now that includes both Fishers, one at guard and one at tackle. They're not quite where they need to be yet, but they've both like the other guys have had a good winter. They're both trying to do a good job, they're both working hard. And hopefully they will continue to keep working hard. We've got five practices in; we've got two-thirds of spring ball left to keep improving.
Blum: Talk about the depth at the offensive line position and that big group of juniors that hasn't played?
That's what this spring is all about too. We not only have to identify all of
our starters, but there's an awful lot of development that has to occur with the
underclassmen linemen. The juniors, sophomores, freshmen, red-shirt freshmen.
Those guys really need to step up to the plate, because none of those guys have
played yet. You get to be a junior or a red-shirt sophomore and its time to
start laying claim to some positions and say I deserve to be on the field.
That's who were trying to identify this spring.