Symonette Working Hard

On a team full of large men, Ian Symonette is easily the largest. The sophomore offensive lineman stands 6'9" tall, wears a size 19 shoe, and weighs in at well over 350 pounds.

One cannot truly appreciate how large a man he is until he sees him in person. Sometimes even his own teammates marvel at his size and power.

"I tried coming at him one day in practice," said junior All-American candidate safety Kenny Phillips. "I'll never make that mistake again."

Despite his mammoth size and raw ability, Symonette was seen as a project coming out of high school by some experts. Despite this, he earned some playing time last season and gained some valuable experience for this spring, where he is in the mix of things at offensive line.

"I feel pretty good," Ian Symonette said about the spring. "The guys on the team work together as a unit and there's a lot of love out here. We basically just help each other out and support each other. Guys on the o-line and d-line keep going at it, so we're making each other better."

Unfortunately for Symonette and the offense, the line has been hampered by injuries this off-season, and Symonette is no exception. He's wearing a large knee brace on each knee during practice, and so far has participated in drills, but does not know whether or not he'll be held out of full contact drills or not. The coaching staff has told the players not to disclose information on their injuries, so we'll have to wait until Saturday, when the ‘Canes open up their first practice to the public, to come to any conclusions.

Despite the possibility of being held out of full contact drills, Symonette has participated in position drills and has looked impressive. On Tuesday, he hit the sled with tremendous force, and Coach Stoutland seemed visually impressed, giving a gleeful holler, running over to him and slapping hands. Symonette says that the offensive line has really warmed up to Stoutland's intensity and enthusiasm.

"He's a great coach, just like all the other coaches in this program. Guys like him make each one of us better as we go into our digs."

While Symonette and all other players have nothing but good things to say about the coaches, not many of them know exactly where they will be lining up in 2007. With so many injuries to the offensive line, each lineman has been practicing every position to prepare for the possibility of having to play it on game day.

"I really don't know what the positions are going to look like," said Symonette. "We're just out here working hard and trying to get better every day. Coach Shannon always tells us that you can't control the past; you can only control the moment. We're just out there working together and trying to get better as we go along."

"Really it's just wherever they have us playing. They teach us so we learn everything. We work together as a unit, so we have to be prepared to play anywhere."

If Symonette sounds like he's giving generic responses, it's because he's truly a team player. Playing a position that traditionally has the most camaraderie, but that has been marred by injury and depth problems the last few years, it's not difficult to understand why. Symonette believes that each lineman can contribute to the team whether he's starting or not, and that there are no selfish wishes for playing time amongst them. Such maturity is rare for a sophomore.

"It's really not important to me," Symonette said about starting. "I'm just going to come in here and do my part to help the team win, just like everyone else is doing their part to help the team win. It's not about who's starting and if I play or not. As long as we play as a team and a family, it won't matter."

As spring practice rolls forward, Symonette and the offensive line will continue to try to gel despite being shorthanded. You wouldn't notice the injury problems by merely glancing at their drills. The line has been going at full speed all spring, a tempo that Symonette says resonates from the coaches down to the players.

"The tone of the practice is really up to us and the coaches. We just go in every day like it's a brand new day. It's all of us. We all determine how intense practices are. It's all about how we go at it and how we approach it that day."

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