After earning a starting spot at offensive guard his true freshman year, Briarcrest (TN) grad Michael Oher thought he knew a thing or two about offensive line play, until he was moved that spring to left tackle.
"It was a move I definitely wanted to make, but the two positions are night and day," said Oher, the 6-5 325-pound rising. "At guard, you have help flanking you on each side. At LT, you are out here on your own."
Still, Big Mike held his own and by the midway point of the season was quite comfortable, and effective, at his "new" position.
Now, in the early stages of spring training 2007, Oher wants to take on a bigger role.
"Going into my third year as a starter, I want to be more of a leder. (Center) Corey Actis is a senior and is taking on a lot of that role, but I want to help," said Michael.
This spring, besides taking on more of an active role as one of the leaders of the OL, Michael is sticking to basics.
"You can never work too much on fundamentals. I want to perfect them. Getting my pads set and feet right, stuff like that, is crucial and you have to be perfect," he explained. "That's my main goal for spring. It's so important to do the little things right at any position, but even more at LT because every mistake you make is magnified and can turn into a sack or a loss."
Oher has come a long way in two full years, he says.
"I am night and day from where I was two years ago. Really, night and day doesn't even describe it. I am a totally different player than I was then," he explained. "As I keep working in the weight room, I continue to change my body for the better and every practice I learn something new and make myself better."
The general thought process on the OL is that last year's running game was sufficient, but the passing game - obviously - was below par. Michael believes the OL shares equally in its lack of productivity.
"Everything starts up front. I know coaches say that all the time, but on this level, it's true," he commented. "We have to do our part to give the quarterback more time.
"We really don't have any excuses not to. We are older and more experienced now and have four starters back from last year. We should be better just because we've been around. I think next year is going to be a lot different - I can feel it."
Oher said the goal for the running game is to not just break the 1,000-yard barrier but to shatter it.
"We need more big runs, then the yardage will mount and it will open things up for the passing game. We want to rush for 2,000 yards this year," he said. "1,000 yards is OK, but we only won four games. To win big, we need closer to 2,000 yards on the ground.
"To do that, we are going to have to dominate more, study film, get ourselves ready. Nothing is new to us now. Like I said before, we don't have any excuses not to be better."
Michael can also tell a difference in the way another main ingredient of the passing game - QB Brent Schaeffer - is handling this spring.
"Brent is closing in on getting a full year under his belt here. I think there will be a big transformation in his play. I can see it in practice the way he carries himself and is being a leader," Oher noted. "He's focused and seems more comfortable now.
"The other quarterbacks are also doing well. Like Brent, they have been in this system a year now and you can see their development."
With 10 returning starters on offense, Michael sees nothing but good things in 2007 for the Rebel offense.
"Like I said, we have all been in this system a year. We are all used to each other and know what it takes to succeed and we all should be a year better and wiser," he closed. "It's up to us to keep working and to get as good as we can."
Michael Oher update -
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