We’re working our way through the list of questions we’ve gotten, which makes covering college football during the dog days of summer more interesting. Today we’re talking offensive line.
Today’s question came via Jim, who reached out via e-mail.
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How is the offensive line coming along? Specifically, how does Cameron Mock look and does he appear to be a starter? I was looking forward to seeing him last year but, as we all know, he was held up due to injury. He’s a big boy and would provide some much needed protection up front.
Speaking of size, it seems that Coach Molnar went out and recruited dudes no less than 6’5”, 270lbs for the O line. How does our starting line compare to other BCS schools? I’m sure that you remember the “Hogs” from the Redskins a few years back. Is that what Molnar is looking to do here?
As many around here know, Cameron Mock is my so-called “Great White Whale” for a number of reasons. Without going through the entire story again, my intrigue in Mock is two-fold: 1) He is already one of the biggest offensive linemen on the team, as a freshman, and 2) he’s from New Mexico, a state that hasn’t historically sent its football players to Amherst. So, when I didn’t see him roaming the sidelines last year, I was a little confused.
With all that being said, I think Mock will eventually be a contributor for this team, but I’m not sure if fans should expect to see him early next season. My understanding is that that the 6’7, 310-pounder is still in the process of getting back up to speed, and that might take a little while. Even when he’s back to 100-percent efficiency, he has to catch up with the other lineman regarding the various blocking schemes that Charley Molnar uses in his offense. It wouldn’t surprise me if Mock redshirts next season, finishes his rehab, and spends time watching video and hitting the weights. By 2014, if all goes well, I can see the big guy breaking into the two-deep at offensive tackle.
Regarding the rest of the line, it too is a work in progress. While UMass was an FCS program, it systematically had one of the bigger offensive lines in the subdivision. When the Minutemen almost pulled off the impossible at Ann Arbor a few years back, it was the push from the big guys up front that helped Jonathan Hernandez run for more than 100 yards.
After Molnar took over, a few guys left the team, some got hurt, and others, frankly, just weren’t good enough to play football against FBS opponents on a weekly basis. So, during his one-and-a-half recruiting cycles, Molnar went out and went big.
In 2012, with limited time to get things done, Molnar signed Michael Boland, Mock, Tyrell Smith and Matt Sparks. That class has gone through its share of lumps. Boland played a lot but is retiring from football due to an injury, Mock never made it to campus after sustaining an off-season injury, Smith was hurt early and redshirted, and Sparks made it through and will likely see a lot of snaps at center this season. The 2012 class’ tough luck, coupled with paper-thin depth up front, led to a long season for the offense.
While the book on 2013 hasn’t been written, there is reason for optimism when looking at what Molnar and staff brought in. Aside from Terrel Correia, who will probably redshirt to put on some weight, each offensive lineman has the size to step in and help out right away. There is little doubt that Josh Bruns and Sam Zeff – both of whom were on campus in the spring – already have a leg up and will see a lot of time early. Tyshon Henderson has FBS size (6’7, 315 pounds) and will be one of the biggest guys on the roster the day he shows up. Jordan Page is a high-quality prospect, and also comes equipped with built-in size (6’5, 300 pounds). Richard Queen – a two-star prospect from the Garden State – also looks ready to contribute right away at either guard or tackle. Then there’s Fabian Hoeller, who is honestly a bit of a mystery to me, but he did play for the German National Team, for whatever that’s worth.
UMass is not yet up to speed with the rest of MAC when it comes to size up front. Many of its conference foes have big, Rust Belt-bred linemen who have more size/experience than the Minutemen. However, UMass is making maneuvers to catch up with the rest of the pack. Currently, UMass is going after a number of linemen, including some big guys from deep in enemy territory.
The Minutemen are also reloading by way of the walk-on. Many who follow the program remember that Al Leneus was a frequent contributor up front and will likely get some snaps next year to spell Sparks at center. If anticipated walk-ons show up next year, UMass will have guys like Costa Toubekis, Will Giggi, Aaron Oberst, Joe Tyo, Chris Sotir, and others who will be asked to provide a little depth. I assume most of these guys will redshirt, but with the lack of depth on UMass’ roster, you can anticipate that at least one will crack the depth chart.
It will take a few years to get up to speed, but the Minutemen are chipping away.
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