Friday, September 6, 2013


Opinion: Questions surround O-line at Kansas


Every starting Kansas University offensive lineman who looks either to his immediate left or right from his position on the field will see an O-line face that was unfamiliar to him as recently as last winter.

Right tackle Zach Fondal, a 6-foot-5, 295 pound junior from Houston by way of Navarro College, looks left and sees Mike Smithburg, a 6-3, 300-pound junior from Fairfield, Iowa, by way of Iowa Western Community College, who looks left and sees 6-5, 295-pound junior Pat Lewandowski from Blue Valley West High. Moving on down the line, Ngalu Fusimalohi, 6-2, 310 from Daly City, Calif., and San Francisco City College, sees Aslam Sterling, 6-5, 315, from Springfield Garden, N.Y., and Nassau Community College on his left.

Five men from five different states weighing an average of 303 pounds.

Continuity, which leads to chemistry, is of paramount importance for an offensive line, or so say those who coach teams that keep their lines together for long stretches.

In that regard, the KU O-line works at a disadvantage early in the season. A microwave doesn’t develop chemistry. Only time does in slow-bake fashion.

Senior guard Randall Dent, a starter in the final 10 games of last season, begins the season on the second team, a strong sign that coach Charlie Weis is pleased with the development of Fusimalohi and Smithburg. Brian Beckmann, a 6-6, 300-pound red-shirt freshman from Blue Valley West High, was so impressive in fall camp he moved to the top among reserve tackles.

The makeup of the line is not without serious questions. For one, Sterling has to perform better as a pass-blocker than he did against Ben Goodman and Michael Reynolds in the intrasquad scrimmage a few weeks ago. Lewandowski must make a smooth transition to center. And then there is the issue of three juco-transfer starters in their first year of Div. I football.

On the encouraging side, coaches and players consistently use the word “physical” to describe the identity of this line. Isn’t that just a code word for nasty?

“Yeah,” featured running back James Sims said. “I would say, yeah. They’re nasty up front, definitely.”

Left tackle Tanner Hawkinson started all of his 48 games at KU. He, Duane Zlatnik and Trevor Marrongelli combined to make 110 starts at KU and must be replaced.

“A lot of people try to compare the offensive line from last year to this year,” Sims said. “I mean, in my eyes, it’s like the same, if not this year’s is more physical than last year’s.”

Tony Pierson called the new, massive quarterback bodyguards and running back aids “good blockers, I don’t see a drop-off. Tanner’s gone, starting all four years and bringing leadership, but other than that, I don’t see a drop-off.”

Run-blocking and pass-blocking?

“Either/or,” Pierson said.

If those words prove accurate, credit the coaching staff with an impressive recruiting job done up front.


Cmill1221 8 years, 4 months ago

Honestly, I don't think we were replacing much. Yes they were experienced and had a lot of starts but in the 48 games Hawkinson started, how many were wins? I look for this year to be an improved squad across the board. Even if they aren't as good of run blockers as last year, the fact that we have a passing game (hopefully) should make a big difference.

hawk316 8 years, 4 months ago

Cmill, I don't think you can judge the previous o-line by the number of wins. For the most part, they did their job, especially in run blocking. Our problems were elsewhere (just one example, as you noted, the lack of a passing game).

If this line is as good, or dare say even better, we should be able to move the ball much more effectively, and...gosh...even score some points! We can hope.

Andy Tweedy 8 years, 4 months ago

Could somebody please explain the microwave reference to me?

Displayhawk 8 years, 4 months ago

Sounds like a half-baked analogy to me!

Cameron Cederlind 8 years, 4 months ago

The original comment still makes zero sense. I get that microwaves are fast but the comment 'A microwave doesn’t develop chemistry.' still has to mean something for the analogy to work. But what am I talking about, Keegan wrote this.

jhox 8 years, 4 months ago

Maybe a reference to things taste better baked than nuked? But I get your point.

Sparko 8 years, 4 months ago

Terrible piece of writing. He is still trying to be Chuck Woodling.

pizzashuttle 8 years, 4 months ago

Good food typically is cooked in an oven and not a microwave because it takes time for the ingredients to combine which makes the food taste better. The chemistry of the spices cooking together over time is what Keegan was going for and I liked the analogy.

Jim Stauffer 8 years, 4 months ago

Let's not knock last year's guys. Zlat, Tanner and Marrongelli gave us the second best unit on the entire team, topped only running backs. These were good guys who gave a lot. Think what those guys would have been with 4 years of Holsopple.

jhox 8 years, 4 months ago

They could run block, no doubt about it, but as a unit they were terrible at pass blocking. Though, part of that was the play calling, with no element of surprise. We only passed on third and long.

Jonathan Allison 8 years, 4 months ago

So you're saying that there's uncertainty as to whether the O-line is going to be good or bad this season?

Jonathan Allison 8 years, 4 months ago

This makes me tend to think of the O-line as Schroedinger's cat. Right now, the O-line is inside a soundproof box and we don't know whether the cat is dead of alive.

But tomorrow the box is opened and we will see for ourselves.

Let's just hope that there's no more particles that tunnel through the barrier and off into oblivion (e.g., Slater) before the box is opened.

Boouk 8 years, 4 months ago

If Aslam Sterling can handle the transition to the blind side, this OL will be at least solid by conference play barring injury.

Dyrk Dugan 8 years, 4 months ago

nowhere to go but up. we've won three football games the past two years...and none vs. league schools. so if the offensive line had so much chemistry because of the experience factor, then it means very little....because it didn't produce.

raw talent and physical skills are probably right now improved. whether or not that means a better offensive line unit is unknown, but i say again, it has to start somewhere....because what we had before, didn't work.

Steve Reigle 8 years, 4 months ago

I kind of thought the bigger problem was defense. Having no passing game was a problem, of course, but we had a good running game. What I'm trying to say is it makes no difference how many points your offense can produce if the defense allows the opponent to score even more.

eastcoasthawk 8 years, 4 months ago

Less than 36 hours and we will see many of our questions answered. Getting psyched. RCJH!

kellerman411 8 years, 4 months ago

36 hours! That east coast time has got you twisted, my man!

Jason Sinclair 8 years, 4 months ago

TK makes a great point about Dent. Almost invariably, when a previous starter is supplanted by newcomers, it's an indication of a talent upgrade. There is legitimate hope that, overall, we have guys with more potential than we had last year.

For the same reason, however, I don't hold out much hope with respect to improvement on the DL - but would welcome being surprised.

If this OL proves to just be serviceable, and Heaps lives up to the hype, then this offense could be lethal.

Can't wait to find out.

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