“as its 3rd string O-line.”

December10/ 2012

Of the bevy of incredibly insightful comments I’ve made here in 12+ years perhaps none has proven more “dead solid perfect” than – “a (college) football team is only as strong as its 3rd string offensive line”.  I knew that was insightful.  The incredible part has come over time.  As Doeren, Fedora et al attempt to lead their programs to BCS glory, it will depend on those unknown “big-uns” in the trenches.elephants

I’m always giving Bubba The Real AD advice.  “NEVER schedule Wake Forest in September” was as sage a piece as I have proferred.

This past season the Fighting Fedorians went into BBT Field @ Groves Stadium @ The Dixie Classic Fairgrounds in early September and came out #2 in a two horse race.  That Gio-less team lost by a gossamer-thin point but the resultant L was as permanent as that L vs GaTech.   Had that game been in late Oct – early Nov twoulda likely been a 9th W for the Heels.

Wake Forest in September is always a different team than Wake Forest 6-8 weeks later and there is not much that Jim Grobe can do about it.  The same holds true for every team below the “perennial powers”.  The reason is DEPTH; especially depth along the O-line.

I asked my Authority on All Things Mizzou – Big Jim Sterling – for his reflections on Mizzou’s inaugural season as an SEC punching bag.  “…. devastating injuries to our offensive line and our QB was never fully healthy.  And we were “one Johnny Manziel” from beating the same aTm team we beat the previous two years.”  Big Jim is confident that his Tigers can indeed compete in the SEC IF it can keep its best offensive linemen healthy.  Alas, no one has ever found a way to do that.

Followers of the now departed TO’B’s NCState teams knew it was mid-September when they would read that one, two, three O-linemen had blown a knee, a shoulder, a foot whatever and were out for the year.  With TO’B’s teams it often even started in pre-season practice.  Check the records….. EVERY year he would end up with a taped-up group of whozits and walk-ons along the O-line by late-October.

It’s not Jim Grobe, Gary Pinkel, TO’B, or any other coaches’ fault.   Those same injuries happen to big-uns in every program but the perennial powers have DEPTH in those 2nd and 3rd strings.

It happens in the NFL too but they simply go to the players store and buy new ones.

Offensive linemen are like “flag girls” in the band.  No one notices them except their proud parents in the stands.   Well not quite.  The coaches and the QB and the running backs “notice” especially when the best ones are carted off and the not-as-good ones are pressed into service lacking the experience, and in many cases, the raw ability, of the ones that limped off.

The difference between a running back “breaking a long gainer” and a “no-gainer” is the split-second that a better O-lineman can hold a block.  A “good block” does not have to be a pancake but simply engage the D-lineman or linebacker for that second or so it takes the runner to scoot thru the hole.  An extra split-second for the QB to work his progressions before he is blindsided.

It’s not the coaches’ fault or even the players’ fault.  It’s a matter of “physics”.  Players have gotten bigger, stronger, faster but “joints” (knees, ankles, shoulders, feet) are pretty much the same ones that walked off The Mayflower or that carried Cro-Magnon man when he was hunting a wooly mammoth.

“Joints” are like “human nature” – neither has changed very much over the centuries.   YIKES, thats positively Zen!

But BobLee I see all the O-linemen wearing knee braces these days.  Don’t those help?  Yes, but not when 350 lbs falls on it.  Or several 350 lbsers fall on it.  In 1966, UNC had two players over 250 lbs – Mike Richey and Terry Rowe.  NC State had Dennis Byrd and Ron Carpenter.  Now every BCS school has a dozen or so at 300+.  Linebackers are now bigger than tackles were twenty years ago.  And its 300 lbs of pretty solid muscle not blubber…. and it moves remarkably fast over short distances.

When the ball is snapped you follow the ball.  In the split-second that ball goes thru the center’s legs all sorts of powerful violence is unleashed at the line of scrimmage as 8-10 well-armored bull elephants charge into one another with intent to do harm.  Often they succeed as mass X velocity = snap.  Not unlike sumo wrestlers except these are wearing armor not big diapers.

So Doeren, Fedora, Grobe, Pinkel, Saban are not unlike Eisenhower, Robert E. Lee, Napoleon, and William “Braveheart” Wallace.  They send men into battle knowing there will be casualties in the first few waves but each hoping they can send in enough fresh troops to eventually wear down the enemy and be victorious.

The armies (teams) that are victorious are the ones with DEPTH.

BCS wannabees have some very good players.  Maybe even a superstar or two or three and a few super talents CAN carry a team to 4-5-6 Ws.  But eventually attrition wins out.  The difference between New Years on Bourbon Street and Christmas In Shreveport is “those 3rd string O-lines”.

By November Jim Grobe is playing 230 lb walk-ons instead of 280 lb 3-stars.  He can’t bring in enough 3-4 star meat-on-the-hoof to give him depth.  Every year is a crapshoot of how long can he keep his top talent healthy.  Once a decade he might luck out.

When Florida State was in its Juggernaut Era, Bowden was 3-deep in 3-4 stars on both his O & D-lines.  Alabama is now.

Butch Davis knew Depth Wins.  UNC could always get enough “darn good players” to field very good 1.5 strings.  To “get to the next level” Butch needed to be three-deep in BCS talent.  He recruited that way….. but at a price.   Ouch.

Can Fedora and/or Doeren recruit “three-deep” talent and “get to the next level”?  It takes more than the occasional Rivers, Russell, or Gio to get “there” and especially to stay there.


Yours truly took some heavy incoming flak over that last column…. yawn.  Apparently some Wuffers thought I wrote that Sports Illustrated article about Debbie Yow at Maryland.  Nope, I simply “read it on the Internet” like everyone else did.  I’ve never met Frau Yow but I know Bob Kennel likes her a lot.  Kennel likes me too so I sure can’t question his tastes too much.

Speaking of “reading it on the Internet” the latest doozy re: Coach Gott is spreading fast.  I’m hearing “that one” from various WPC members no less.  When that one gets to the Heel looney fringe it will go viral but I’m not telling’em.  I don’t pedal prurient gossip.

Re: NFL Problems:  Last week the NFL had “a gun problem”.  This week the NFL has “a drinking problem”.  Whats next “hoarding Rolexes” or “texting while driving Bentleys”?

Re: The Heisman:  I was pulling for the Hawaiian LB from Notre Dame.  He has a much shorter arrest record (none at all) than does Johnny Football.  Call me “old fashioned”.  Yes, johnny HeisManziel has a lengthy “record” for assaults etc.  No drugs or rapes.  His “record” is why Mack never recruited him.

Re: Butch’s Career:  Why wasn’t Butcher mentioned for all the big time HFC gigs?  Could be because if he is still NOT employed “as a coach” on Jan 1 he collects $900,000 from UNC.  Maybe FIU is willing to wait.  If “anyone” (JS) knows more about that, please comment.

The Infamous Martin Report is coming out December 20 – the day before The Mayan Apocalypse.  A coincidence ???  The formal presentation will be open to the media.   PackPride should show it live on the Carter-Finley Jumbotron…. charge admission w/ proceeds going to The V Foundation?? ….. maybe sell “I (heart) Dan Kane” t-shirts.  If the Martin Report does not go like ABCers want it to; they already have an assembled angry mob to march on the UNC System HQ. ….. hey, I’m just trying to help the V Foundation.


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