Stoutland Addresses O-Line Situation

Offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland talked about his offensive line after practice Monday. Read on to see what he's saying about different players and what his thoughts are a little more than a week into fall camp....

One of the biggest weaknesses on the Hurricane team in recent years has been the play of the offensive line. New line coach Jeff Stoutland has been working hard to find the right mix of players.

One of the experiments has been moving senior Derrick Morse from guard to center at times to see if that will help the unit find the best combination of players.

"If he shows he can be the best center (he will play there)," Stoutland said. "It all depends on what the situation is. If he shows he's as good a center as one of the other guys, then I can put (Andrew) Bain at right guard."

Morse has gone back and forth between guard and center so far this month. When he's playing guard, A.J. Trump has lined up at center. When Morse is playing center, Orlando Franklin has been playing the left guard spot. Stoutland likes the flexibility.

"There's a lot of combinations of things you can do, but you really need your best five players on the field," he said. "It's not fair to have a guy on the bench that's as good as someone on the field. That's not right in my mind."

With four starters back from a year ago, the Hurricanes have plenty of experience. The question a lot of people are wondering is which players are starting to separate themselves from the rest of the competition. Stoutland believes they're all doing well as a unit but he did single one out.

"Well, they're all doing some good things at times," he said. "I can't point two guys out right now. It wouldn't be fair to the other players. As a group, collectively, I think they're all playing hard. I can say this -- Derrick Morse plays his tail off. He gives the greatest effort and is probably in the top three guys I've ever coached in terms of his effort level, how hard he plays on every play. He doesn't take plays off. He's consistent."

When Morse is playing center, like on Monday morning, Franklin lines up at left guard. He's starting to open a lot of eyes as a true freshman. While it's rare for a young player to make such an impact at that position, Jason Fox played very well as a true freshman last season and Stoutland sees a lot of positive things in Franklin's game.

"He's working at it right now and doing a good job," he said. "Physically, he's where a fourth or fifth year guy would be. That part of it is there. Now it's a matter of learning the system, learning the techniques he has to use. And that's really a struggle for him -- the biggest struggle for him."

Fox is holding down the left tackle spot while it appears Reggie Youngblood and Chris Rutledge are competing for the right tackle spot. Stoutland said he views them all the same.

"I consider Youngblood a starter," he said. "I consider Rutledge a starter and I consider Fox a starter. I'm going to be real honest -- they're all going to play. We're not going to end the season with bald tires. We're going to have tread left. We're not going to go the whole season with two guys going every snap. It's not going to happen. We're going to roll those guys in all year long and they're going to be better for it and we're going to be better for it."

Stoutland said all three tackles bring good things to the table and somethings they all have in common.

"All three of them, I think, are really good players. (They) know what they're doing from a mental standpoint."

Just nine days into fall camp, it's very difficult to predict what will happen down the road as the team continues preparing for the start of the season on September 1. Stoutland will continue evaluating.

"It's a long way to go," he said. "I like the seriousness of the group. I think they're here to study and learn. When it gets time to going to execute they're doing a decent job of that. There's still room for improvement but there's still a long way to go in camp."


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