Saturday December 27th, 20084:25pm
How Did Our O-Line Get To This Point?
Over the course of the season I put a lot of the struggles this team had offensively at the feet of the offensive line.
We returned two All-Conference tailbacks (Goodson & Lane) and added two 4* freshmen backs (Stephens & Gray) and ran for a 43 year low, 88.5 yards per game. That was good for 114th in the nation (out of 119 teams).
We also had the highest sack total since 1998 when we were sacked 41 times.# Times Sacks ============= 2008 - 39 2007 - 16 2006 - 19 2005 - 16 2004 - 24 2003 - 32 2002 - 29 2001 - 17 2000 - 10 1999 - 27 1998 - 41
I've made mention that since Coach Sherman brings with him a strong background of offensive line coaching, so I'm not too worried about getting the OL turned around. It'll take a couple of years but we'll get there.
What I am curious about is how we got to where we are.
'06 OLmen: Yoder (54), Clark (51), Wallace (70), & Elder (64)
Coach Fran led us to become a very strong running team (finishing 8th & 13th in the nation over his last two seasons), so you would think that we would still have that ability. Like I mentioned, we brought back a lot of talent at the running back position but the problem was that we lost a HUGE portion of our offensive line from 2007, be it graduation or stupidity.
Going into 2007 our offensive line squad shared 119 career starts. Going into 2008 we had seven scholarship linemen with a total of 21 career starts. We were young and inexperienced....and then just to make it sting a bit more, the injury bug bit us.
If you look at our starting lineups you wouldn't think we lost many starts to injuries but that is because our depth was so thin that our guys had to play through their injuries. We pulled a redshirt off of a freshman in the 8th game of the season because we couldn't start a game with only 5 active offensive linemen. We have two players with eligibility remaining that have most likely played their last snaps because they were so injured.
I started thinking about the Fran-era and the offensive linemen that he had. I remember that our OL was horrific in 2003 and it was pretty bad again in 2005. That got me sidetracked to thinking about a little article that I had read on ESPN.com that correlated the success of a team and the number of career starts by their offensive line. The author felt that the magic number of starts for a successful team was 75.A&M OL Starts v. W-L ==================== 2003 20 v. 4-8 2004 62 v. 7-5 2005 87 v. 5-6 2006 79 v. 9-4 2007 119 v. 7-6 2008 21 v. 4-8
[note: 2005 is out of whack because we had Aldo De La Garza and Jamie Hightower, both experienced seniors but both playing the same position -- Hightower was beat out by Yemi Babalola (freshman) at tackle so he moved to guard and split time with Aldo -- that is, until Dominique Steamer ended up beat'em both out after our 5th game. Going into 2005 Aldo & Hightower had 51 career starts between them and they started a combined 5 games in '05]
I'm not going to sit here and tell you that the number of starts your offensive linemen have under their belt is the secret key to winning a national title but it does make sense that is is an important one. This idea brought out a bit of the nerd in me so I went back to 2003 and started going through our offensive lines and their contributions (the first number is always the number of games played and the second number is the number of starts).
I was surprised at how few starters we had over the 5 years Fran was here.
- We played 61 games under Fran
- At 5 OLmen per game that means there were 305 starts made at the position.
- 29 different players played a snap
- Only 16 started a game for us
- The five players who started the most games under Fran were Kirk Elder, Cody Wallace, Corey Clark, Aldo De La Garza, and Geoff Hangartner
- That 5-some accounted for 174 starts (or 57%)
- That group also accounted for all 9 All-Big 12 honors during the Fran-era (Elder x3, Hangartner x2, Wallace x3, Clark)
- Fran recruited only one of them.
Fran brought in Corey Clark and the others were either already on campus or were already committed to A&M when Fran came to town. Then in 2003 he redshirted Elder, Clark, Wallace, and Chris Yoder....4 offensive linemen who combined for which made up 75% of our starts in 2007.
From the 5 recruiting classes that followed the class of '03 we had 4 linemen who played in more than 10 games prior to this year (Yemi, JUCO transfer Grant Dickey, Schneider, and Shumard).
Fran lived off of the 2003 recruiting class his entire time here and never replenished it.
That, my friends, is how we ended up with nothing left at offensive line.Offensive Line Recruits in Fran's Last 4 Classes =================================================== 2004 2006 G.Dickey (Juco) L.Patterson (moved to DL) Y.Babaloa T.Schneider 2005 2007 M.Shumard D.Barker L.Grimes E.Eike R.Frost K.Heard (moved to DL)
That means that in his last 3 recruiting classes only Michael Shumard contributed in the Fran-era.
That also means that we had six offensive linemen that we recruited and gave a scholarship to. To be fair, we should add Kevin Matthews (who was given a scholarship this year) because he came as a walk-on and probably should have had a scholie from the get-go. We should also note that Yemi was kicked off the team prior to 2008 after getting arrested.
So seven scholarship offensive linemen with a total of 21 career starts between them. That isn't even enough bodies to put together a two-deep.
So where do we go from here? Travis Schnieder will be gone in '09 and from what I'm reading I would not expect to see Robbie Frost (concussions) or Lee Grimes (a crazy number of surgeries) back. That means we'll lose some of our experience but we'll still looking to bring back a total of 44 career starts. A huge difference from 2008.
In addition to those players, Coach Sherman announced that he would move Lucas Patterson back to the offensive side of the ball to see if he can play tackle to replace Schnieder. We also have the luxury of the services of LSU transfer, Matt Allen, who had to sit out 2008 due to transfer rules. The coaches want to keep him at guard, or even center, but they also want to move Michael Shumard back to his natural position of guard, which would give us some unbalance with lots of guards and not enough tackles.
We are also gaining the services of a handful of freshmen. We redshirted five offensive linemen in 2008 and we used Joe Villavisencio as a result of injuries (he did make one start). We are also currently set up with three more coming in as true freshmen. That gives us 9 scholarship freshmen OLmen....which is two more scholarship OLmen than we had in '08.
Add in Patterson and Allen and you can see that our depth will improve significantly simply with bodies. The experience is not there but at least we won't have to play 3 guys every snap that are so hurt that they should have had surgery already.
The bodies will be there in 2009 and the experience will be there in 2010. It is nice to see that Sherman has a plan of action and is putting it in place. We'll have a good OL in his third season.
| Where are you?