'Tank'

Alex Washington has been on the outside looking in for three years, trying to develop his skills and break through to the starting lineup. This spring, he's been able to do that, but to keep his job he's got one more chore to complete. Read about it inside.

Offensive Line Coach Mike Markuson is working with a lot of young and inexperienced players this spring.

Some are starting to make a late push in the spring session, like Emmanuel McCray, Mike Brown and Josh Tatum.

"They are showing signs, doing some good things," said Markuson. "Most of them need to get stronger, which is always the case with young guys, but they are doing much better.

"I just have to keep pushing them and teaching them how to grind. They are learning to grind now, working hard, and it's showing up in the end results. They are getting better."

Markuson is currently working McCray at tackle and guard and Tatum is also seeing some duty at both positions.

"Josh is now healthy and has become more physical. We think Emmanuel could play either one in the long run," he explained. "We're always looking for the next best center, then next tackle and then next guard.

Mike Markuson

"Right now, we don't trust all our young guys to play in an SEC game, but McCray has to play. Another center, like Evan Swindall, will have to be ready to play. A lot is up in the air, but we feel another summer with (Strength Coach) Don Decker will be very beneficial."

In the meantime, Markuson also has his hands full with the development of a couple of the number ones.

Alex Washington, a junior who has been around three years but hasn't broken into the starting lineup, is now getting his opportunity at left guard.

"Alex's issue is to lose some weight. He knows that," said Mike. "To be a functional player, to play in heat early, to stay on the field for 75 plays, you have to be in great condition.

"Tank has all summer to lose 20-25 pounds. He'll do it. He wants to do right and earn the position."

Mike believes there is an excellent upside for Tank if he loses the targeted weight.

"Alex is very strong. He's done a lot of good things. He's playing with a better pad level and he's taking coaching better," said Markuson. "Guys who have been around a while and haven't player are usually a little hungrier.

Alex Washington

"The light is coming on that this is his opportunity to get it going."

Washington knows the score.

At 350 pounds, his endurance suffers and he understands the necessity of getting to 325-330 pounds by August.

It's his turn and he wants to take advantage.

"I'm coming out here every day trying to get better with my fundamentals, but I know I have to lose some weight," said Alex. "The coaches want me to get to 330 and that will be my offseason goal.

"At 330, I'll be able to move better, operate out of my stance better and last a whole game against good competition."

At this point, Tank believes he's developing in other areas.

"I'm doing OK with my assignments and techniques. That part is coming along," Washington noted. "My strength level is good. I just need to work on endurance and the weight loss will help that a lot."

As the spring wore on, the offensive line got more and more assertive. It was that or continue to get their heads bashed in by a veteran Rebel DL.

"They have a lot of experienced guys and we had a lot more to learn," explained Alex. "The reps against them have gradually helped us to get better.

"Once we got our assignments down and built some chemistry, we started developing the will to get it done. That's when we started making progress and moving the ball more frequently."

Tank believes the Rebel line is a work in progress.

"We are on the same page, but we are still making too many fundamental mistakes that we need to keep working to correct," he closed.

Tank Washington has his shot and he knows what he has to do in the offseason to make the most of his opportunity.

The rest, as they say, is up to him.


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