Ole Miss junior Left Tackle Michael Oher will be the first to admit the 2006 season was a learning experience for him.
After starting, and getting his feet wet, as a true freshman in 2005 at right guard, Oher was switched to arguably the hardest position on the offensive line, LT, for the 2006 season.
And while he functioned well there, he knew he needed more experience.
Enter the spring of 2007 - a time to get all the little things down that were sometimes missing in 2006.
"I think I got a lot better in spring. I worked hard. I got better at finishing blocks and that was one of my main goals," Oher noted. "Coach (Art) Kehoe and I had a long talk and it all boils down to finishing blocks and communicating better."
Oher had a different spring experience at LT than he had during the season.
"I was a lot more comfortable. I knew what I was doing a lot more. I was able to concentrate more on learning defenses and the finer points of playing the position," he explained. "Last year, I just had the basics and did the best I could. This year, I will really know the position and that will make a lot of difference for me and all of us."
Oher felt the communication on the OL was one of the weak points in their attack last season.
"I was brand new to LT, Corey Actis was in his first year starting at center calling the signals, John Jerry was a true freshman and Muairce Miller had never started," he noted. "And really Andrew (Wicker) had not played a lot on the OL due to past injuries. Our lack of communication caused a lot of QB sacks. At times last year we would have busts on our calls and someone would roll through a gap that was supposed to be covered and wasn't. That's about as bad as it gets. It disrupts everything.
"This spring, even though Andrew is gone, all of us knew the calls and knew what to do when the line calls were checked. Our pass protection game stepped up a lot in spring. As long as we are communicating, and we know what we are doing and what everyone else is doing, we will be fine."
Oher gives a lot of the credit to Kehoe.
"Coach Kehoe is fair. If you are doing a good job, he will pat you on the back. If not, he will get in your face. That's all you want as a football player. He gets the most out of us and has brought us along to where we have a lot of confidence," Michael noted.
Oher had a senior next to him last year in Wicker. This year, it appears he will have a virtual rookie in sophomore Reid Neely holding down left guard most of spring drills.
Michael said the Rebel OL should not miss a beat with Neely in that slot.
"It felt like Reid was a veteran. He felt like he had been there a long time. He played that good in spring," Oher stated. "He's a good communicator and he gets the job done. He's big, strong, athletic and he's intense. He knows what's going on and is playing like a veteran, to me. I'm real comfortable with him next to me."
Oher said he's in good shape and has overcome an ankle injury he had in spring. He said he will cotinue working on his conditioning and strength.
The proof will be in the pudding when the season rolls around, but Oher left the interview, in short, believing the run-blocking will be better in 2007 than it was in 2006 and feeling good about the improvements in pass protection that were exhibited in spring.
"We fine-tuned out run-blocking and showed improvement there, and it was already pretty tight," Oher closed. "Our pass protection still needs work, but we made dramatic strides and improvement in it during spring. For the most part, our quarterbacks had plenty of time to throw in spring.
"I don't think our OL is a finished product yet, and I guess it's hard for it to ever be perfect, but we are on a good path and showed a lot of improvement in spring training, which was our goal."
Oher's first year at LT was "good, but not great." He feels with the year of experience, he can take it to the next level.
Michael Oher update -
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