Spring Practice: Line Is Thin But Better

The 27 scouts from the NFL teams on campus for Pro Day were working out three offensive linemen Thursday, and one of them was Davis Walton from the University of Tulsa. Baltimore Ravens assistant offensive line coach Todd Washington was conducting the workout, and after the workout he was told to come back in the future because there would be more offensive linemen. He said he knew, and he would.

Not only will there be more offensive linemen that should interest the NFL scouts but now they have an NFL coach directing them. While no players have been able to comment the word is that Greg Adkins has quickly impressed and earned the utmost respect from his new pupils.

Young players like tackle Zach Crabtree, guard Jesse Robinson, center Brad Lundblade, tackle Matt Mucha, guard Junior Galea'i and more are soaking up his teaching which seemingly started with the walk across Hall of Fame on the way to the first day of spring practice. Adkins doesn't waste any time he has with the players.

"Coach Adkins is the best I've been around," offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich said. "He's very smart. He's got great experience.

"Some offensive-mind coaches, I think, can talk about what they've learned watching somebody else do it, but I think Coach Adkins has done it all so he brings a tremendous amount of experience there."

There appears to be no wasted time with the offensive line as Adkins is constantly communicating with his players, and it seems more reps are being run during individual periods in practice. It's back to that no wasted time philosophy.

Adkins was asked before the first practice about the difference in coaching professional players as he did in Buffalo and coming back to coach college student-athletes as he had for some 22 years prior to going to the NFL.

"To me, there is not much difference. I had a great room in Buffalo, which makes it easier," Adkins said. "Those kids that I had there wanted to learn and reach the pinnacle of their profession and be the best they can be. A true professional football player wants to be coached, as compared to some guys who are playing the game for the wrong reasons. I didn't have any of those, and that made it a little easier to transition for me."

Now he transitions back and give previous offensive line coach Bob Connelly credit in that the line improved late in the year with several line-up changes and the return of Zach Crabtree from injury. Adkins didn't watch the whole season game by game but cut-ups to get ready for spring. He saw the improvement.

"I can't speak for the whole season, but it's about continuity up front and as much as you can get it," the veteran coach said. "You are going to have some changes because a guy may not be playing well or something of that nature, but I'm ultimately in charge of putting those five football players on the field at that position, regardless of what they have done in the past or what they did in high school.

"We're not just looking for the first five guys," Adkins continued in talking now about his process this spring. "We ultimately have to have No. 6, No. 7, No. 8 and No. 9 ready to play. Just because you're the backup left tackle on paper doesn't mean you're going to be the next guy that goes in if the left tackle is down.

"I'm a firm believer in challenging the guys, whether they're No. 1 or No. 15 on the roster. At the end of the day, you want to coach them all the same. I can't pinpoint what it was that made them better, but something must have come together to get things to tick and perform at a higher level."

Yurcich knows as offensive coordinator that the line will be better and the guy leading them will make sure of it.

"We've got some experience, and we've got some tough guys coming back. We've got good leadership, too," Yurcich said. "It's time for us to get better at the fundamentals now, and spring is a great time to get better with those fundamentals and get as many reps as we can with the base concepts so that we can carry those into the fall."

That is getting done each day, and there are 12 more for Adkins to work on this spring.

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