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Snap first, block later

The White Sox are off today, which means two things:

1) they can't lose
2) I'll be concentrating this post on football


Greensboro News-Record writer Jim Young has written a comforting piece on NC State's renewed OL depth:

With the addition of incoming freshmen as well as freshmen coming off their redshirt seasons, a junior college transfer, linemen coming back from injuries and even one player, Dwayne Herndon, switching over from the defensive side, offensive line coach Mike Barry now has a crowd assembled at position meetings.

"I look in the room and I think I'm in a stadium,'' he said. "I've got three deep there."
In fairness to Jay Davis, last season's offensive line situation didn't make life easy for him. Losing your center is bad enough (especially a stalwart like Jed Paulsen, who started for three years), but Paulsen's injury was only the beginning. Philip Rivers never had to deal with the mess that was NC State's offensive line in 2004.

In the Clemson game (one of several I'd love to have back), NC State had two lengthy touchdown passes negated on the same drive by illegal formation penalties because an offensive lineman was not properly lined up on the line of scrimmage. That lineman was one of the many replacements forced into action thanks to injury. At the time, I thought (okay, I still do) the penalties were cheap, but they illustrate the point. These things don't happen with experienced guys.

Three starters return for 2005: Derek Morris (a tOSU transfer) is a monstrous tackle who has been banged up a lot over the last few years, and he could be an All-ACC player if he manages a full season; Leroy Harris and John McKeon have over 40 career starts between them. That leaves a couple more spots to fill, and for now, anyway, there are plenty of bodies with which to fill them.

Night & Day
The offensive line situation still isn't ideal, but the impact of Chuck Amato's recruiting efforts are obvious. When he got here in 2000, we were severely lacking along both lines (there's a reason why Philip Rivers threw the ball 40 times a game as a freshman). Several years of poor recruiting had put too many undersized and unathletic guys in the trenches--Amato changed that, most notably on the defensive line. I watch tapes of games from 5-6 years ago and the contrast is striking.

It helps when guys like DeMario Pressley, Mario Williams, and Kyle Newell not only give you the time of day, but actually come play for you. Several years of good recruiting started peaking last year and should really pay off for the defensive line in 2005.

Mmmm...Pancakes
I wish I could say the same for the offensive line, but progress on that side has been decidedly slower. I'm in oh-my-god-two-weeks! optimism mode right now, though, and I think NC State will have a good, cohesive offensive line this season.

At the very least, NC State will be better suited to deal with injuries along the offensive front in 2005, should they have to fight the injury bug again.

A stronger offensive line will afford Jay Davis more time in the pocket and a better supporting run game--two things which hopefully show Jay that hey, this quarterback thing isn't so hard after all.