July 27, 2012

Bowling & Burgers, 1st Frame: The O-Line



Hey, it all starts up front, right?

But before we begin with dissecting the offensive line for this upcoming season, here's the tweet for Nathan:

Left to right across the starting o-line: A-, C, C, C+, A. It's a good line, but needs to demonstrate some power up the middle.

Okay, on to the bowling and burgers!

Strikes
  • First and foremost, [starting left tackle] Oday Aboushi and [starting right tackle] Morgan Moses are both beasts who will eventually be playing on Sundays.  Big Mo, especially, and especially if he sticks at RT and is drafted as such.  The line is beyond fine at the bookends, as we potentially have the best pair of starting tackles in the ACC.
  • The depth chart is back to being fully stocked after taking a dangerous dip at the end of the Al Groh era.  Names like Jay Whitmire, Kelby Johnson, Cody Wallace, Ross Burbank, Conner Davis, Andre Miles-Redmond, Mike Mooney, Sean Karl, and Ryan Doull will battle for spots in the two-deep this season, and they will battle for starting jobs later in their UVA careers.  I finally feel like we have an adequate pipeline of OL talent flowing into the program.
  • Luke Bowanko gives us an interesting swingman talent on the interior of the offensive line.  He was the starter at right guard last season, but is getting a long look at center this offseason.  I met Luke's parents at least year's Spring Game, great people.  I'm thus a big Luke Bowanko fan, and I think he gives us the ability to get out in space to offer a very nice pulling option, which in turn unlocks a world of playcalling in the run game.  Look back at last year's Miami game and all the times #70 was 10, 15, 20 yards downfield throwing himself around -- he helped spring two long touchdowns in that game, and it's the kind of thing you need from your linemen in order to break those big plays.
  • Kelby Johnson is a reserve I will be paying an extra bit of attention to this training camp and when he gets into game this fall.  With Oday graduating and Mo very likely headed to the NFL, we'll need to be replacing both starting tackles next season.  Kelby Johnson is a big part of that succession plan.


Gutters
  • As good as Oday Aboushi is and as much as he's a "complete" OL talent and a legit pro prospect, I feel like he's a little bit ordinary when it comes to pass pro.  His feet are not quite quick enough to grade out as an elite-level pass blocker, and that's what will push his stock down into the late-middle rounds next April.
  • We'll have some untested players filling key roles on the interior, especially [projected starting left guard] Sean Cascarano and [projected starting center] Matt Mihalik.  We need these guys to step up, and we need them to play NASTY despite their inexperience.  Can they provide a real push in crunch time?  That, to me, is the big question this offensive line faces.
  • Last year, the line was good, but wilted against the better defensive lines of Virginia Tech and Auburn.  Can our current unit step up and deliver the push we'll need in order to be able to run against those types of opponents in 2012?  If we can't run the ball against those sorts of teams, the whole offense will fall apart.
  • Beyond Oday Aboushi and Morgan Moses, we don't have any 4- or 5-star recruits along the offensive line.  Plenty of bedrock-type talent and lots of high 3-star guys, but no elite prospects.  This doesn't matter a whole lot on the offensive line (where player development and skill is generally more important than raw talent), but you still would like to see a top-tier talent or two (or three, or four) along the offensive front if you're hoping to take the step up to Big Boy Football and be able to blow defensive lines off the line line of scrimmage.
  • If Mo goes pro after this season, we'll only have two returning starters - Cascarano and Bowanko - along the o-line in 2013.  Not ideal.

Projected Depth Chart
LT) #72 Oday Aboushi (Sr.), #75 Kelby Johnson (So.)
LG) #79 Sean Cascarano (Jr.), #61 Cody Wallace (So.)
C) #71 Matt Mihalik (Sr.), #65 Ross Burbank (RS Fr.)
RG) #70 Luke Bowanko (Jr.), #74 Conner Davis (So.), #69 Tim Cwalina (RS Fr.)
RT) #78 Morgan Moses (Jr.), #77 Jay Whitmire (RS Fr.)



Burgers...

Pierce: If the offensive line were a burger, then the tackles would, at first glance, be the buns. This metaphor makes sense in a spacial reasoning sort of comparison: the tackles sit on either end of the line, book-ending the entire group, much like the buns hold together the burger and its toppings. However, the tackles are clearly the most important part of the OLine, and as such, are actually the ground meat patties of the OLineburger. Our patties are top notch, cooked perfectly with the right amount of seasoning (experience!). Damnit this metaphor makes little sense but now I'm hungry. Moses and Aboushi could start for any team in the country and now it's lunch time.

Mike: O-line is a Riverside Burger. Always good, Always delicious, easily best in town, but doesn't quite fill you up when you really need it to. See last two games of the season. The OL is our most talented unit but seems to fall on its face in big spots. I'd still eat the shit out of it though. That sounds odd and now I am hungry.

Kendall: To me, this year's o-line is like the burger you'd buy in a fancy French hotel.  Served on the most delicious, crusty baguette you've ever tasted, it's still lacking a little beef - and personality - on the inside.  The meat is there, but it's not particularly flavorful.  Luke Bowanko is a little blast of mustard to help make things a bit more zippy.


Score for the Frame:
Spare!  The tackles are great, the interior is a bit of a question mark.  Nice talent top to bottom on this unit, but much of it is untested and all of it is just a shade below elite.  Can the young guys step up in training camp and solidify things?  Or is this a unit that will - like last year - make hay against the bad/mediocre/middling teams and struggle against the good teams?  The offensive line is not an area of worry for me this season, but I also don't think it's one of those strengths that can elevate us beyond the 6-7-8 win plateau.



Score Thru 1 Frame: 10



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