While tackle is still a position of concern, Robert Kugler, the 6-foot-3, 288-pound center from Pittsburgh, returns to anchor the unit that must do a better job of protecting quarterback Danny Etling, or one of the other candidates to play under center and lead the offense.
"Personally, I need to play lower," Kugler said after Wednesday's practice. "That's just a thing where it is flexibility. You can not just get stronger and not get more flexible. The other thing is just a better understanding. This is our second season in the offense.
"We see things a little better and are not just worried abut what you are doing. We can worry a little bit about what the defense is going to do. Right now, I have a better understanding than I did at this time last year. There's no excuses any more. This time last year, we were four practices in with the offense. We have to get it. Now that we know it, it is time for us to take it to the next level."
-- Sophomore guard Jordan Roos, who made seven starts last season, is excited about the offensive line improvement.
"Things are going great," Roos said. "We have great chemistry. We are short on numbers, but everybody is going. We have 10, which is enough for two lines. Everybody is getting reps, and everybody is getting time. We are going at it right now.
"It's absolutely huge having another year under our belts. I look back at my true freshman year, then my redshirt year, and then now. It is cool to see the growth. There is no excuse not to get better. You have a year under your belt with the offense, and now, you have to keep improving. Not just knowing what you are doing but knowing what can happen to you."
-- Second-year head coach Darrell Hazell has been watching offensive line play closely during the first four spring practices.
"Those guys are fighting like crazy," Hazell said. "You didn't know what you were going to get out of the tackles. We are running about three plays in the run game, which I think is helping them. A lot of it is zone, which helps. It's not some of those isolation blocks that have to be one on one blocks. They are doing a nice job."
-- Senior running back Brandon Cottom has been slowed by a hamstring injury and did not participate in full drills Wednesday.
"We tried him two days ago, but he is not up to full speed," Hazell said. "We are trying to be smart before (spring) break and hopefully be able to get 10 practices out of him. Obviously, if he can't practice, it hurts him.
"But those other young guys are doing a nice job. Sometimes, you get an opportunity to see other things that you might not ordinarily see."
- - One of the young running backs to impress Hazell thus far is 5-9 redshirt freshman Keyante Green out of McDonough, Ga.
"Green has had a nice four practices," Hazell said. "He definitely is a guy that is starting to emerge up the depth chart. He is so compact in the way he runs. He sees things and is fast around people. He is starting to understand."
-- Monday's third spring practice was held outside but was closed to the media. Hazell said an emphasis was placed on the kicking game.
"It was the first time to be able to get some long-range punt things," Hazell said. "it was our typical practice running around."
-- The Boilermakers will stage their fifth spring practice at. 3 p.m. Thursday.