What’s goin on?
If the UConn football team is going to improve and obviously it must - the offensive line is certainly going to have to get back to the days of ground and pound and they’re going to have to protect the quarterback, too.
No secret there, right? It has to be done though and UConn hasn’t done a good job in either department consistently since 2010.
Now, if Saturday’s open practice was any indication the Huskies’ aim at being a formidable offensive unit that grinds and protects was legitimate but the execution on game day, really, is what counts. The experience up front, too, we know, is at a minimum but offensive line coach Mike Foley sure was dealing with all of that during the open with up close and personals with each lineman during instruction.
Foley is a great teacher…
“Let’s go! No walking!,” he yelled at one point as the line headed over to the padded walls for a drill that would see three of them at time, line up next to each other get a good a solid base and with their heads and necks locked and looking forward, with their palms out, three-quick pats on the wall, accompanied with three quick sliding movements in unison to the right, boom, boom, boom, then, to the left, boom, boom, boom.
Next group in….
There was another “push-pull” drill where two linemen battle each other and whatever the defensive lineman does, whether he pushes the OL for position or pulls him there is/was a reaction to it with a good base being the key.
Foley would on this one as he did with a few others stop the drill to make sure it was being done right. It’s important that they are.
Anyway, some of the drills the OL did were new. Can’t hurt and neither can some of the experience of the staff.
“We have a community coaching situation so the [offensive] coordinator [Mike Cummings] is an expert offensive line coach,” UConn football coach Bob Diaco said. “Our offensive line coach is an expert line coach, the associate head coach [Don Patterson] has coached almost every offensive position and been a head football coach and coordinator so they’re getting a lot of coaching, a lot of coaching.
“All the other small pieces that need to happen for that group to go the extra mile we’re going the extra mile. They’re leading. When somebody needs to be addressed we activate an offensive lineman to do it, really, you know, there’s no hats in the dining hall, so if somebody walks in with a hat on we’ll say ‘Hey Alex [Mateas]‘ rather than us, going in to intervene. It’s just another moment for leadership at all levels.”
Gus Gruz, who started the first five games of 2013 at right guard then missed the last seven with a shortness of breath is inching back toward a return. He’s been doing work on the side but through Saturday hadn’t dressed out or participated in contact drills with the team.
“I think he’s tracking the right way from everything that I’ve heard,” Diaco said. “The fact of the matter is without getting into detail, whatever the process was for answering his issues in the Fall of 2013, it created a lingering piece where you have to be cautious over a period of time. I think it’s not necessarily what he can or can’t do it’s what he’s allowed and not allowed to do…some of the equipment is sharp and even though he could probably engage more than he actually is, because we now we have full pads on, it’s really limited. He was actually doing more when we were in shorts an just helmets but he’s been doing a great job. He’s been a great teammate.”