THURSDAY, AUGUST 09, 2012
O-line mirrors school color ... green
Offensive line coach Andy McCloud (gold shirt) keeps watch during Thursday drills.
Offensive line coach Andy McCloud (gold shirt) keeps watch during Thursday drills.
There are plenty of questions for the JU offense this preseason camp, among them, how to create an offensive line, where only one player can be called a true starter and he has only six starts under his shoulder pads.

Despite the youth, offensive line coach Andy McLeod remains undaunted and won’t yet subscribe to the idea this may take his best coaching effort ever, but does subscribe to the idea that he’s enjoying watch the unit take off.

“It’s a fun coaching job,’’ said McLeod, who is entering his 10th season at JU. “Right now what you’re dealing with, when you’ve got a whole new group, it’s like the putty. You get to mold the guys into one unit. The group we had last year had been molded over time; this is a group that’s got to come together in camp, but it’s all fresh. It’s not like we’ve got the ability to have a couple older guys who can bring a couple younger guys along. It’s pretty much everybody’s fresh and new. It’s a lot of fun because you’re in the process of developing everything that’s going to happen with this group over time.’’

Last year’s group was a bunch of seniors that got invaded by a freshman that last six games.

Matt Davis now is a sophomore and his six starts earn him the title of Most Experienced on the Line.

He’s feeling the pressure a little, too.

“Yes, sir, there is (some pressure),’’ Davis said. “Last year I had a great older group around me playing next to Kyle Nanton and Chad Cypher and they really helped me out a lot. I’m trying to bring stuff I learned from them back to these practices.’’ McLeod, who classifies himself a “yeller’’ by nature, was having a field day Thursday as the team put pads on – shoulder pads only – for the first time. He spent much of his time correcting mistakes and head coach Kerwin Bell wasn’t oblivious as he prodded the team at the post practice meeting to start cutting the miscues.

“It’s kind of like the perfect storm out here for us right now,’’ McLeod said. “We’ve got a really experienced and talented defense, this is the best defense I’ve ever seen us have from a talent standpoint, a work ethic stand point, a scheme standpoint and you get a young offense with a new offensive line, a new quarterback and it’s a great challenge for them.’’

Currently, Davis is being joined by about 15 others trying to find a home on the line.

“We’ve got a good group here,’’ Davis said. “We’ve just got to work on some of the mental parts. We had padding on today (shoulder pads) and for some people the mental part went away. The next couple of days it will be back.’’

And just in time. The next couple of days will see another practice and then an all-important scrimmage Saturday morning, somewhat unusual in that it will be the first full padded practice of the young preseason.

“The scrimmage is always a big deal,’’ McLeod said. “The biggest thing is to see what guys want to come out here and compete. We’ve got a little different mentality on this team. It’s youth, exuberance, that kind of stuff, especially the offensive line. There’s a big difference in being a backup and thinking about a red shirt year to preparing to go play Georgia Southern in week one. It’s going to be interesting to see what their eyes look like when they walk out here and get the first opportunity. When it’s for real, we need to look in their eyes and see how they react to that. They’re never going to feel comfortable when they come through camp, which is a good thing because it’s going to keep them pushing and striving to the next level.’’

Notes: Senior fullback Robert DiMarco likes what he sees in the back field. “We have a good stable of running backs,’’ he said Thursday. “It’s going to be good blocking for good running backs’’ … Defensive back Schon Thomas reminded defensive lineman Juan Pimienta there are only 23 days until the opener. “I don’t look at it like that, I take it one day at a time,’’ Pimienta said. “You look ahead like that and it will bite ya.’’

- Jim Nasella