Bulls offensive line needs to jell quickly

With the Bulls offensive line having three first time starters due to injuries in the opener, they had a fair amount of protection issues and lacked cohesiveness. They'll have to improve quickly when they travel to Nevada for game two. USF offensive line coach Steve Shankweiler gave his thoughts on the unit's performance, where they're at, and what they'll face when they go against the Wolfpack.

The Bulls got a win in the season opener against Chattanooga, but the offensive line that had three first time starters due to injuries, had a fair amount of protection issues and lacked cohesiveness. Bulls offensive line coach Steve Shankweiler gave his thoughts on the unit's performance in their first game.

"Inconsistent and mismatched, in terms of who's playing," said Shankweiler. "Obviously Darrell Williams didn't play and Quinterrius Eatmon didn't play much, so we had two new starters in there. Damien Edwards and Max Lang both did some good things, but it was their first game playing, so there was inconsistency in terms of everybody playing on the same page."

Coach saw some good things out of the unit, but said it was far from what he expects out of the unit.

"They played hard and physical so I have no complaints there," said Shank. "But there were just too many missed assignments at the tackle position."

With it being the first game Coach alluded that there is room for optimism for the offensive line to rebound in game two against Nevada.

"The most you'll improve on is between the first and second game. All of the sudden you realize game speed and you see yourself on film and all of the sudden things become obvious and you say 'holy cow, what coach was saying was right,' so we've already fixed those."

The Bulls didn't have both starters Darrell Williams and Quinterrius Eatmon healthy in the first game, but both have made a lot of progress over the past week, especially Eatmon.

"I think Darrell is going to be back in the mix, ‘Q' is back for sure," said Shankweiler. "So we got a little more steadiness there, and we're going to be fine."

Williams is practicing, but Shankweiler wasn't ready to anoint him the starter just yet, and also commended backup tackle Damien Edwards who made his first start, even though it was far from perfect.

"Darrell practiced today, but will he be ready to start, probably not, but we'll see," said Shank. "Damien did some really good things last week and also made some inexperienced mistakes. Overall it's not want you want, but it was solid and good enough to win."

Sophomore Austin Reiter made his first start at center and Coach was very high on his first game performance.

"Austin was our player of the week, so I think he played really, really well. He's got a chance to be a very good player," said Shankweiler. "He played good, fast, and he will get better from the first game to the second. It was his first start and played the most he's ever played."

Much of the lines improvement has to deal basically with getting everyone healthy and playing together.

"We just got to get all the parts and pieces back in there together," said Shank. "We had three guys in there that never played more than 15 snaps in a game before and they all played 60 snaps, so it was good for them to do that."

With the Bulls traveling to Nevada, coach said no drastic changes were in store for game two.

"No, we just got to get our top ten guys playing; we just didn't have that the other day. We only had six or seven guys going. I think the injury thing hit us a little bit, and set us back," said Shankweiler. "But I think we've overcome that now. I think as we get into this week and into Rutgers, we'll be ready to go."

This week Nevada is going to be a tougher test for the Bulls young o-line.

"Nevada is very physical, they're very strong and much bigger than what we played against in week one," said Shankweiler. "Their pad level is probably lower than what Chattanooga was, they have strong hips and legs, and they do a great job of keeping the linebackers covered up, and allow them to run to the ball. So it's going to be much more of a physical as opposed to a speed issue this week. These guys are tough, big, strong kids."

Will the Bulls offensive line be up to the challenge, that's yet to be seen, but the effort has been there this week in practice.

"We'll see, they're working their tails off right now. They're looking good in practice and we're wearing them out pretty good. We've been working them hard all week."

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