Most freshmen are usually surprised by the speed of the players and the pace of the game at the college level. Freshman lineman Chauncey Incarnato is no different.
"The biggest challenge I have seen for offensive lineman is the speed and physical-ness of the game," Incarnato said. "In high school, nine times out of ten you are bigger than every defensive lineman or defensive end you come across as an offensive lineman. And the ones who were big were not that fast and didn't have the kind of speed they do at this level."
"The speed of the game at this level is just amazing--so much faster. The defensive tackles and defensive ends are bigger and stronger, and you're not big at all anymore as all the defensive linemen are your size or bigger and most of the offensive linemen are your size or bigger."
Incarnato is listed at 6-6, 280 pounds and knows he has work to do in the weight room.
"I weigh around 270 right now as I dropped a little coming into camp and the coaches want us to build muscle to be fast, lean linemen," he said.
"Our strength coach, Mickey Marotti, is the best strength coach in the nation, I think, and does a real great job developing us. I think being on his program another four years I'll be able to gain a lot of weight. He has a great winter conditioning program. I have not gone through it yet, but I am definitely going to bust it and get bigger and stronger in the off season."
A big challenge for any freshman is learning the techniques needed to play the college game. Incarnato says he's been working on getting up to speed.
"They're both equally hard, but pass blocking is at least for me a little easier because I came from a high school team that did a lot of pass blocking. We passed about 95 percent of the time so I did a lot of pass blocking in high school, but very little run blocking in our junior and senior year whenever our coach went to that kind of offense.
"So at least for me, it has been harder to pick up the run blocking than it has been the pass blocking. I definitely need tons of work on both of them, and I'm nowhere close to where I need to be, and I just have to keep working and trying to get better at both."
We asked the Ohio native what his strength is as an offensive lineman.
"I think my strength is that I'm willing to work hard and whatever the coaches tell me I need to improve on, I'm going to do and work my hardest to be the best, and improve on what they tell me to do," he said. "So I guess my biggest strength is that I'm coachable and I'm listening because I know that the coaches know what they are talking about because they have been doing this since before I was born. So whatever they say, is the right way to do it and that is how to become a good college offensive lineman - listen to the coaches."
It appears the former two-way high school player is going to be red-shirted this year, and we talked with him about this and what the coaches say about his future.
"I feel that's what is probably best for me, and if that's what the coaches have chosen, that's what I need," he stated. "I need to get bigger, faster, stronger, and I think it's good to give me a year to develop. A lot of guys are red-shirted their freshman year so I don't think it is anything out of the ordinary. And it is fine with me, whatever the coaches say.
"The coaches go one day at a time. Right now I've been playing right tackle and that's where Coach Denbrock is keeping me for now. In the future, they said I could be a guard or anywhere. Coach Denbrock said he is going to put guys where he can get them on the field and put them in a position which is best for them and where they can play their best. If right tackle is best for me for five years, I'm sure they will keep me there. And if not, they will move me wherever they feel is best for me."
Offensive line and tight ends coach Mike Denbrock has high praise and expectations for Incarnato.
"I think Chauncey is really starting to step up and understand how to practice and how to make himself better," Denbrock said. "He is understanding what we are doing scheme-wise, better than at any point since he has been here. I think there is a real bright future there.
"He is one of the tops as far as taking coaching and listening to every little detail you tell him and finishing everything you tell him with a 'yes sir' and right back to work. He is a very respectful kid and he really cares about how he is perceived by his teammates and how he goes about his work. And I think that is going to pay big dividends for him."
Incarnato was a tough nose guard in high school and we asked if he misses playing defense.
"Not really. I liked defense in high school, it was a lot of fun," Incarnato said. "But the more I played offense, the more I felt physically I was better adapted for the offensive line.
"There are times you miss it because the difference between offense and defense is the offensive linemen don't get much credit. They are not the type of guys that you are going to hear announcements for anything. Whenever the touchdown is scored, it's the quarterback, running back, or receiver that is mentioned. The only credit the offensive line gets is from the guys on the team. You don't hear many people out there asking who the left guard is."
The former high school heavyweight wrestler made an early commitment to the Irish and we asked about the other schools who offered him.
"Michigan State, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, North Carolina State, and schools around my area of Ohio; I had my offer from Notre Dame in June and I committed to them just before my senior year. I got a lot of offers right after that but here is where I wanted to go."
Dover, Ohio, is right in the middle of Buckeye country and we wanted to know if he was always an Irish fan.
"I grew up as a Notre Dame fan. My father was always a Notre Dame fan," he reported. "In fact back in about the fourth or fifth grade, my friends would always come to my house on Saturdays and we would always watch the games. My best friend in high school would always come over and he was a big Notre Dame fan, and I would say I'd like to play there some day. At the time it was just a dream, but now it is a reality. And one I never take for granted."
We asked Incarnato if his family attends the Irish home games and how important is it to have that support.
"My parents take turns coming out to the games. My mother comes one game and my father the next," he replied. "My younger brother also plays football; he's a freshman at Dover this year. So one of them stays and watches his game and one of them comes out to my game. So far for every home game, I've either had my mom or dad come out and also other members of my family, my uncle, my older brother, and a lot of other people come out.
"My family is the most important thing in my life. My mother and father have been the best you could ask for. Whatever I've needed, they have taken care of me and they have raised me right. They have taught me to be a good person and I love them to death."
Irish Eyes is very impressed with this first-year lineman as a player and as a person. His eagerness to learn and improve will definitely help him to get on the field and his strong character will serve him well daily.