"After spring ball had wrapped up, they said: ‘You're going out there first. ‘You're going to compete for the job," Park said.
But the process began much earlier. Park said that after Matt Frazier went down with an injury during Gator Bowl practice, he moved from center to guard—knowing that he could adjust to any O-line position.
That offensive line needed to replace three starters heading into 2013, and faced obvious uncertainty. The Wildcats had the right guys step in, with Park an immediate highlight.
"I had to learn a good chunk of the offense in spring ball, trust my coaching and trust myself," Park said. "Everyone else was extremely helpful."
Park credited NU's easy transition to strong relationships. This offseason, every member of the offensive line met to share a weekly meal. (The tradition continues now.) Any lineman mentions the entire unit before he does himself, making this a selfless and proud group.
"It all starts off the field," Park said. "We made it a point to spend more time with each other… As individuals, we created good habits. You make sure you can trust the guy next to you."
There were no O-line changes during training camp. Though Fitz cautioned writers not to assume any clear starters early on, the current group of five–then the ones–managed to earn their roles.
"I think you look at the group, it's all about consistency—all five, and not just Ian," Pat Fitzgerald said. "That's why they're going with the ones: ‘Who's the most consistent?'"
The O-line graded out well, sure. There's still more to come for them to prove their reputation, beginning in the home opener against Syracuse.
"Getting a win was nice," Park said, "but we still have a lot to clean up fundamentally. We can be a lot better."