Wildcats relying heavily on versatile offensive line

Arizona Sports News online

Rich Rodriguez has made it more than clear up to this point in the season that the Arizona Wildcats depth across most positions is an area of great concern. One of the biggest area’s where it has been a problem from a health stand point, is the offensive line. Because of this, it has forced these players to move into different roles on the line and be versatile.

“It has to be, because a lot of guys have been banged up and we’ve had to move a lot of guys around,” explained Rodriguez. “It’s not the ideal situation particularly up front, you would rather have seven or eight guys playing the same positions to get the chemistry better, but we’re not able to have that luxury at this time.”

“We have a lot of players that can step in and play, so we have been mixing and matching,” added Arizona sophomore offensive tackle Fabbians Ebbele. “There are no guaranteed spots. Everybody shows that they can play each week, and the best players get to play. Our strengths are that we have a lot of players who can play, want to play, and step in when the time calls for them.”

The most recent injury, which was a big blow to the team, was losing center and captain Kyle Quinn to a lower-leg injury in the third quarter of last week’s game against Oregon State. His status for the upcoming matchup with Stanford on the road is uncertain. So that means senior Addison Bachman had to step in and finish the game at center. He has spent time playing guard this year and showed his versatility and he may have to step up for an entire four quarters in Palo Alto.

“He played really well. It was expected of him,” explained Ebbele. “He stepped in and played a key role. His role is the heartbeat of the line at the center position. Kyle (Quinn) is a major part at what we do. I’m glad Bachman stepped in and played well. We didn’t have any confusion with calls and we were okay.”

The Wildcats offensively have had trouble putting points up when in the red zone. That was more than apparent two weeks ago at Oregon and was improved upon last week against the Beavers. But still not perfect. Coach Rodriguez sites that the team just needs to be able to run the ball and own the line of scrimmage when down in that territory. Part of that has to do with the physicality of this offensive line.

“We’re not nearly what we need to be,” mentioned Rodriguez. “I think the guys have worked pretty hard, but there is a whole other level of strength we need to have up front. We have a couple guys that are really serious about the weight room, but there are a couple more that need to get more serious about the weight room.”

The tough stretch in Arizona’s schedule continues after two straight losses to the Oregon schools as they travel to play Stanford. The Cardinal have a marquee win over USC which brought them as high as eighth in the nation. But they are coming off a tough road loss, their first of the season, to the Washington Huskies.

The versatility of the Wildcats offensive line will be under the microscope Saturday. Rich Rodriguez mentioned that when watching the Stanford-Washington game last week, the television broadcast showed that the Stanford defense is bigger than the San Francisco 49ers defense.

“The thing is they’re not just big, they’re athletic,” Rodriguez stated. “They recruited well and they developed well. They’ve got a lot of good guys that are playing good football.”

Wildcats and Cardinal kick-off from Palo Alto on Saturday at noon.

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