UK offensive line: New offense forces linemen to get up to speed

SCOUTING THE CATS: OFFENSIVE LINE

jsmith3@herald-leader.comAugust 19, 2013 

  • This is the fifth in a series of nine stories analyzing the UK football team position by position. Coming Wednesday: Linebackers

  • Scouting the offensive line

    The main man: Kentucky has several veterans back to anchor the line but perhaps none more important than Darrian Miller, who has played in 24 games, including 14 starts. His size, speed and ability to pick up the new offense have made him a leader by example, said position coach John Schlarman. "He doesn't blow assignments, doesn't have poor technique. He does the little things right."

    The supporting cast: Kentucky doesn't have a bunch of stars, but it does have quite a few players returning on the offensive line that have been in the trenches before and played well, including right guard Kevin Mitchell, who has played in 30 games with 13 starts. There's Zach West, who started every game last season at left guard but is coming back from shoulder surgery. West is vying for time at that spot with Teven Eatmon-Nared, who played in eight games last season. Others like Max Godby, Jon Toth and Jordan Swindle have been drawing praise in fall camp and will be key contributors.

    Outlook: This offensive line doesn't have two three-year starters in Matt Smith and Larry Warford to anchor it like it did last season, but it does have a tight-knit group of guys who like to work together and are being cross-trained to fill multiple positions when needed. The position group isn't as deep as coaches want it to be, but they believe that will come with time. The offensive line was one of the surprises of the spring and it has continued to improve as players' conditioning and understanding of the new offense has improved.

    JENNIFER SMITH

Max Godby watched partly in disbelief, partly in terror.

Texas Tech played its bowl game last season shortly after Kentucky had hired the Red Raiders' offensive coordinator away to fill the same position.

Godby, who is vying for time at center for the Cats, remembers watching the game on Dec. 28 and turning to his father.

"They're really fast," he said of Texas Tech's offense. "They're really, really fast. We're going to have to get in some really good shape to run this offense."

The same realization came a few weeks later for junior left tackle Darrian Miller. His aha moment was during winter conditioning when the team got familiar with the term "NASCAR," which Brown often uses to describe his hurry-up style ofoffense.

During one drill, the ball was spotted every five yards but to the opposite end of the field. The players would line up, get in their stances, then sprint toward the other end zone.

"They want us to move this fast?" Miller recalled thinking to himself.

He soon got his answer: Yes, and then some.

After weeks of spring practice and fall camp, Coach Mark Stoops seems to be pleased with the tempo of his offensive line. But NASCAR's lead driver still thinks it needs to go faster.

"It's something that constantly we've gotta work on," Brown said. "They're improved; they're not exactly where I want them to be. But the good news is we've still got some time."

It's hard to get a 280-pound-plus body moving quickly, but it's a concept the linemen have embraced. Godby ran it for two seasons at Louisville Christian High School.

He's seen the fruits of that speedy labor.

"The defense will start getting more tired, and for an offensive lineman, that's a great equalizer," he said. "A huge equalizer. You get the running game going a little bit, pop a few passes here and there and it's fun and it's exciting."

Miller has enjoyed the results of the up-tempo scheme.

"As an offense, you get accustomed to running it, so you get tired, but you also get a second wind a lot faster so you can keep pushing," the former Bryan Station standout said. "Defenses aren't used to it and they get gassed and it's a lot easier to do it."

Then Miller smiled broadly and added: "Of course, actually getting them to that point is terrible and exhausting."

It definitely can wear on the body, left guard Zach West said.

"We get pretty tired out there," he said Monday. "Today you saw a bunch of guys slow to get off the field. It's tiring, but we know when game time comes it will be a huge advantage for us."

Going at this pace hasn't just made the offensive linemen faster on their feet.

This offense requires some mental dexterity as well.

"The biggest thing is you have to think fast," offensive line coach John Schlarman said. "The game happens and everything moves at such a faster pace. You have to make quick decisions. ... You can't change a lot at the line of scrimmage. They have to trust each other, make sure they're on the same page and snap the ball."

Miller said the offense requires less thought, but the ability to recognize defenses is a must.

There are even calls for when there's no time to process a complete thought.

"If we're running NASCAR, we have calls to get everyone's eyes looking in the same direction," he said. "Even if the defense isn't lined up, we can be on our blocks and have a decent play."

The hurried tempo has become second nature these days.

Now, when Godby sees a game on television, he wonders why an offense takes so long.

"You get used to the speed," he said. "I'm watching and seeing all the huddling and stuff and I think: 'Man, this is so slow.' I don't think I'd want to play like that anymore."


This is the fifth in a series of nine stories analyzing the UK football team position by position. Coming Wednesday: Linebackers


Scouting the offensive line

The main man: Kentucky has several veterans back to anchor the line but perhaps none more important than Darrian Miller, who has played in 24 games, including 14 starts. His size, speed and ability to pick up the new offense have made him a leader by example, said position coach John Schlarman. "He doesn't blow assignments, doesn't have poor technique. He does the little things right."

The supporting cast: Kentucky doesn't have a bunch of stars, but it does have quite a few players returning on the offensive line that have been in the trenches before and played well, including right guard Kevin Mitchell, who has played in 30 games with 13 starts. There's Zach West, who started every game last season at left guard but is coming back from shoulder surgery. West is vying for time at that spot with Teven Eatmon-Nared, who played in eight games last season. Others like Max Godby, Jon Toth and Jordan Swindle have been drawing praise in fall camp and will be key contributors.

Outlook: This offensive line doesn't have two three-year starters in Matt Smith and Larry Warford to anchor it like it did last season, but it does have a tight-knit group of guys who like to work together and are being cross-trained to fill multiple positions when needed. The position group isn't as deep as coaches want it to be, but they believe that will come with time. The offensive line was one of the surprises of the spring and it has continued to improve as players' conditioning and understanding of the new offense has improved.

JENNIFER SMITH

SCOUTING THE CATS

Running backs: Raymond Sanders standing out in deep backfield

Quarterbacks: Start or not, Jalen Whitlow figures to be part of plan

Receivers:Alex Montgomery has a flair for the dramatic

Tight ends: Anthony Kendrick might be a hidden gem

Offensive line: New offense forces linemen to get up to speed



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Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241. Twitter: @jenheraldleader. Blog: ukfootball.bloginky.com.

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