Matt Luke

With five returning starters and more, OL Coach Matt Luke feels confident

Last season, Offensive Line Coach was "breaking in" players like RT Alex Givens, LT Greg Little, LG Javon Patterson and C Sean Rawlings to starting roles.

With that mission accomplished, and them having gained "a lot" of experience through the course of the season, the goal for spring training, which starts today, is completely different.

"Due to the experience we have coming back," said Luke," I want them to develop a leadership characteristic. I want them to step up as not only leaders of our position room, but leaders of the team. There will be some growing pains early this spring due to learning a new offense, even though a lot of it is the same stuff with a different name, but other than that, this spring will be as much about taking a lead as the guys up front as anything.

"Once my guys get the terminology down, I think we will be fine. So, as for spring goals, terminology and taking on a leadership role are big to me."

Of course, Luke wants every O-Lineman to improve their skill set, but that goes without say.

"Getting a little bit better every day is a constant," he emphasized. "I express that every day, in season or not. Spring will be no different."

Petre Thomas

The terminology part, Luke says, should not be that difficult because they are not starting from scratch.

"When you can reference a look by saying we called it 'x' last year, now it's 'y,' it makes it easier to learn and relate to," he continued. "I don't expect too much difficulty in my guys learning the terminology, but it will take time and reps because we will be running tempo and it takes a few more seconds at first to process it mentally. That will be the challenge - to process a call instantly, and that will come."

One of the goals for spring training is to get better in the run game as an offense, not just up front, but obviously the guys in the trenches have a lot to do with that.

"There are some similarities with what we have done in the past in the run game, but this offense also tries to take advantage of space more," Luke explained. "That excites me, but the bottom line is that we just have to be more efficient in the run game in regards to yards per carry and in short yardage and in goalline situations, and I believe we will be with the plans we have the returning personnel we have.

"We need to be more physical and we need to be more creative. That's what spring is for."

Despite a 5-7 season last year, Luke believes the offense is extremely confident.

"We believe we can score on anybody and play with anybody. Our offensive guys have a lot of confidence," he added.

Royce Newman and Greg Little

The starters, going into spring, will be Little at LT, Patterson at LG, Rawlings at C, Sims at RG and Givens at RT.

"Then Rod Taylor will work at left tackle and right guard some. You will see Rod a lot. Daronte Bouldin will also play both guard spots and Jack DeFoor and Chandler Tuitt at the guards slots as well," he noted. "Javon will also play some center as well as Eli Johnson. At right tackle, you will see Michael Howard, Bryce Mathews and Royce Newman, who will also play left tackle."

One of the goals is to try to get to a 10-man rotation, but that may be a pipe dream.

"I would love 10, but if you have eight or nine, you will be better than most," he said. "We do have more candidates than before, so 10 is possible, but 8-9 is more likely. Which one of these redshirts will emerge and be like Sean or Jordan or Alex and be able to play as a redshirt freshman? We want a couple of them."

Luke said he's been very pleased with the offseason progress of his troops.

"Greg Little is in much better physical condition. I am very pleased. Javon has gotten a lot stronger. Those two jump out at me. Newman is now over 300 pounds from 260-265 when he reported. Mathews is 285 now, up about 20 good pounds. It's been a good offseason - the guys who needed to improve in different areas have done a good job of getting it done," he closed.


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