Vanderbilt's offensive linemen speak, Part II

When most people watch a football game from the stands or on television, their eyes follow the ball and the player in possession of it. Those listening on the radio may go through an entire game and never hear a word about the blocking. Newspaper readers may go through an entire season and never read one word about the offensive linemen.

Recently, I talked with the current first team offensive line (Chris Williams, Josh Eames, Hamilton Holliday, Merritt Kirchoffer, and Brian Stamper) plus the versatile Mac Pyle to get their thoughts about blocking.  Then, I asked offensive line coach Robbie Caldwell for a few comments.   In part one, the players responded to their most and least favorite types of blocks.  Today, I ask them about run versus pass blocking and the creation of an official statistic to display to the public their performances.


Question: Which type of block do you feel you are more competent performing and which do you like to do most—run blocking or pass blocking?


Chris Williams:  I probably excel more at pass blocking, but I like run blocking a lot better.  I've been improving my run blocking all off-season; that's something that I've been trying to get better and more aggressive at.  I like run blocking because you get to attack the defender, but I think I'm better at pass blocking.


Brian Stamper: I enjoy run blocking because I like being aggressive.  Being an offensive lineman, we don't get a chance to tackle.  Run blocking is as close to being able to hit people as hard as we can, so I really enjoy run blocking.  Pass blocking might really be my strength, and I really like the finesse of  pass blocking. It's kind of a dance between you and the defensive lineman, and you are just trying to mirror them until you get close enough to engage with them.  There are different aspects with both run and pass blocking that I like.


Mac Pyle: I love run blocking.  If we run for a lot of yards, people say that's the offensive line.  If you pass for a lot of yards, people don't look at the linemen blocking and holding people off.  I'd rather us run 50 times than pass 50 times, and when we block well enough for Jeff Jennings or Cassen Jackson-Garrison to gain 100 yards, they get excited and give us pats on the back.  The best thing an offensive lineman can see is the ball in front of him with the back running down the field or a receiver catching the ball down the field because you don't have to do anything after that but watch.


After being told that Eddie George gave his offensive linemen new SUV's and asking whether Jennings and CJG should ante up, Mac laughed. 


Josh Eames: I like pass blocking better because I'm better at it right now.


Hamilton Holliday: I am more comfortable right now with pass blocking.  As a unit, we are a lot better at reading the defense and the games (stunts, dogs, and blitzes) they play.  We still need to work on our run blocking techniques in camp, so right now we are a little more solid with pass blocking.


Merritt Kirchoffer: I agree with Hamilton 100%.  We need to work on getting better in run blocking and opening bigger holes for the backs.


Question:  Can you think of any type of statistic that could be officially kept to give offensive linemen the respect they are due?


Williams: There are pancake blocks and sacks allowed stats kept, but I think a lot of that is subjective also.  I think when someone looks in the paper and sees that the team didn't give up any sacks and they got a lot of rushing yards that game, that's the best stat for offensive linemen.  We didn't get into this position for fame anyway.  We do our job and then get off the field.  I don't think there's any way to improve the stat system; you know a good player when you see him.


Stamper: I agree with Chris about the knockdown blocks and sacks allowed.  The offensive line is a real selfless position.  We take pride in not letting the quarterback be rushed,  hurried, or even touched.  We also take pride in how many total yards our offense gets in a game, because we know we play a big part in that.  So, how the offense does overall is the one stat we look at.


Pyle: It doesn't bother me that I'm not in the paper.  I guess you could record pancake blocks.  You could talk to the offensive line coach and find how we graded out for the game.  Every coach has a different grading system, and I don't think many people would understand those grades.  To be honest if you asked this question to most of the offensive linemen in the nation, they don't really mind not getting their name in the paper.  If their running back is getting in the paper, and their quarterback is on the Heisman list, and they are blocking for him every day, they are happy just to be out there doing it because honestly we don't do it for the fame; we do it because we love blocking.


Eames: I think pancake blocks have a lot to do with rating linemen.  However, some times, they can be really misleading.  I don't know if a stat can be created for linemen specifically other than times the ball is run to your side or something like that.  That's just part of being an offensive linemen.  You're not going to get much glory at all, and it takes a special kind of person to do it.


Holliday: You have pancake blocks.  At this level, it's really hard to get those, so they're more special.  If the coach (Caldwell) grades you in the 80's or hopefully 90's, then you know you did everything well mentally with maybe only a couple of physical errors.  So, for me, the biggest stat is blocking percentage.


Kirchoffer: The team's average rushing yards per game or passing yards per game is enough for me to show you how good the line is.   If you can block well enough to have 500 total yards in a game, that's says how well we performed more than anything.


Question for Holliday only:  As a center, which type of defense is harder for you to block—an odd or an even front?


Holliday: It's a double edged sword.  Sometimes you have really good defensive tackles and they'll come off the ball quickly.  The center is up on the ball and it can be hard to reach them.  At the same time, blocking on a linebacker can be harder because they'll kind of shake you a little bit.  You have situations in both cases that are difficult, but I'd prefer to block a nose guard or tackle for the most part because I'm a little more comfortable blocking lineman than linebackers.


Coming in part three:  Offensive line coach Robbie Caldwell answers these plus a   couple other questions. Top Stories