Protection is always key in football, but that element is needed two-fold when a new coaching staff comes to town with a new, unproven system.
The "big uglies" up front can, as a unit, dominate any particular facet of a game about as much as any other unit with the exception of the guy they're there to protect.
So far, the coaching staff has sung the offensive line's praises and called the unit the strongest on the roster up to this point.
Head coach Darrell Hazell and offensive coordinator Brian Rock have both said the offensive line unit may be the best or the second best on the roster--Rock also likes what he's seen out of his wide receivers--and offensive line coach Chris Bache believes the amount of experience the line gained last season could be an advantage.
"It's always good to start with guys with experience, guys who understand the heat of the game," Bache said. "With a new system, new coach, there's always a learning curve. It's a good group to work with, [the guys are] coachable, attentive kids."
The line is losing only one member, Michael Fay, from last year's unit.
Left tackle Brian Winters and junior Kent Cleveland both feel their experience playing alongside each other and with Josh Kline and Chris Anzevino will bode will in learning the new scheme.
"[Experience has] helped us a lot because we're on the same page as each other," Winters said. "We're all starting fresh but we're all with each other and when we get on each other it's for the best."
Cleveland added, "It's like second nature--we all know what the other person is going to do. It might be a different system, but that stuff stays the same."
Through four practices, it appears Winters, Cleveland, Kline and Anzevino are joined by Tyler Arend on the first-team line.
The second team looks to be Robert Kearney and Terrell Johnson at tackle, Tom Pizzurro and Charlie Laster at guard and Phil Huff at center.
And, through four practices, depth is a concern.
"I've got an idea of who the upper tier kids are but it's the middle tier guys I'm really looking [for] to add solid depth," Bache said. "A big thing we lack here is a lot of depth, but we have a lot of kids in the program that we feel could contribute here.
"To kinda' surmise the whole thing, I've taught my guys like a basketball team. I teach five line guys and then who's the sixth man, seventh man, eighth man off the bench. It's up to them and that's my goal this spring, to find who those guys are."
Bache has a "pair and a spare" technique to filling out an offensive line depth chart that he feels comfortable taking into game day.
"I always equate it to a pair and a spare," he said. "A pair--a guy on the right and a guy on the left--and a guy who can flip around there. One of my biggest philosophies is teaching guys multiple spots. I want everybody to learn how to snap a football whether they've done it or not because that's a vital position. If we have a left guard, I want that guy to learn the other side of the ball."
One of Bache's guards, Arend, won Hit of the Day honors Saturday with a crushing blow that knocked two defenders down for a couple minutes.
Running with a screen play to wide receiver Tyshon Goode, Arend caught Dana Brown and Norman Wolfe Jr. with a bone crushing crack-back block that brought some cheers from both sides of the field.
Bache may feel a little better knowing his unit can deal out a hit or two, not just block.
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