When the 2012 season came to a close, the USD coaching staff circled the offensive line as one of the areas in need of the greatest improvement. That group had to get better, and the entire offseason program was designed to ensure that it did.
Once fall camp arrived, it didn't take long to notice a difference. Junior quarterback Josh Vander Maten told me at media day that "they've grown up a lot." He wasn't referring to maturity, although that was actually part of the equation. Vander Maten's eyes had widened as he said it, so it was pretty clear he was impressed by what his protectors had accomplished in the weight room under the direction of USD strength and conditioning coach Jevon Bowman.
The numbers don't lie. Here's what USD's starting offensive line, which combined for 43 starts last season, will look like for Saturday's 2013 opener against UC Davis:
- Left Tackle - #70 Matt Huffer (Jr. | 6-7, 305 lbs)
- Left Guard - #77 Marc Murtha (Sr. | 6-6, 315 lbs)
- Center - #67 Cody O'Neill (Sr. | 6-3, 305 lbs)
- Right Guard - #72 Andrew Schofield (Jr. | 6-5, 290 lbs)
- Right Tackle - #65 Derek Chancellor (So. | 6-5, 305 lbs)
When you crunch the numbers, the Coyotes front five averages out at 6-5, 304 pounds. Those are big boy numbers.
With beef like that in the trenches, the Coyotes should be able to get "downhill" a little easier this year. It should also help the conversion rate in short yardage situations. USD struggled mightily in that area last year, and that was part of the difference in some, if not all, of those one-score games.
Of course, none of that will matter if USD fails to execute when the bullets start flying on Saturday. But one thing is certain. If they do fail, it won't be because they aren't big enough.