Chargers line goes from Houck to Mauck

Ask any member of the San Diego Chargers offensive line and they will tell the same tale. While they deserve the credit for executing, Hudson Houck was instrumental in making sure each player did it on a weekly basis. That dynamic is gone, replaced by a fiery leader that plays by a different set of rules.

It went into last season as a question mark, only to exit the year as an exclamation point.

The Chargers' offensive front line featured five new opening day starters in 2004 when compared to 2003. But concerns about the play of tackles Shane Olivea and Roman Oben, guards Toniu Fonoti and Mike Goff, and center Nick Hardwick, were downplayed as the season progressed.

And on the surface, this unit should be better. Olivea and Hardwick started last year as rookies, and they should only benefit in having an NFL season under their belts.

But look closer, and some wonder if the unit can duplicate last season's success.

The reason? The departure of offensive line coach Hudson Houck.

When the Chargers decided not to offer Houck a contract paying annually in the $1 million neighborhood, he changed addresses and was snapped up by Miami. Any chance the Chargers were penny-wise and pound-foolish with that move?

Time will tell. Houck was replaced by Carl Mauck, a former player and coach with the Chargers. In fact, it was Mauck's line in 1994 which helped the Chargers to their lone Super Bowl appearance.

But despite last names which rhyme, Houck and Mauck couldn't be more different. Houck, a center on the USC 1962 national championship team, was more of a teacher than a screamer. He seldom raised his voice and lost his poise on even fewer occasions. That's not say he didn't use salty language or was shy about taking a player to the woodshed. But he did it in a quiet, confident manner.

Mauck is nowhere nearly as composed. He screams, he yells, he often looks as if his engine's red line is buried in the blow-a-gasket department.

Now, there's different ways and methods to be successful coaching in the NFL. What we do know is Houck's technique was highly effective. And while we know Mauck's approach has paid dividends in the past, it's at least worth watching how the starting five offensive linemen -- especially the two youngsters, Olivea and Hardwick, react to Mauck's philosophy and how he delivers it.

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