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Every time I turn on the radio and listen to college football analyst Phil Steele break down a team heading into the 2015 season, the discussion always turns to the experience on the offensive line.
Steele, who knows his football as well as anyone, believes it is the experience of the offensive line that will prove to be the difference, especially at the start of the season. An experienced line will set the tone early because of its cohesiveness and rapport with the quarterback. An inexperienced line with new starters will take a while to adjust to schemes and facing bigger and faster defensive lineman at the major-college level.
“When most folks judge a team for the upcoming season they look at the QB, RB and WR’s that are returning,” Steele writes in his blog. “A few may take the time to look at star defensive players that are back (those with a lot of sacks or interceptions). However, very few look at the offensive line and yet the team that controls the line of scrimmage wins the game more often than not.”
Steele uses an example the inexperience of Ohio State’s offensive line at the start of last season as a reason why the Buckeyes struggled with an early-season loss at home to Virginia Tech.
“Ohio State has a lot of talented OL’s but had the 3rd fewest career starts returning last year,” Steele writes. “They struggled early and even lost to Virginia Tech at home. By the end of the year they were blowing open holes for RB (Ezekiel) Elliot versus the likes of Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon.”
Arizona is ranked 90th nationally with only 52 career starts from its returning offensive line. Gone are the 130 career starts by Mickey Baucus, Steven Gurrola and Fabbians Ebbele.
The most experienced are seniors Cayman Bundage (left guard), Carter Wood (center) and Lene Maiava (right guard). Bundage has the bulk of the starts with 27. Wood’s only career start was in the Fiesta Bowl against Boise State. Maiava has started only six times in his career. Redshirt sophomore right guard Jacob Alsadek started 11 times last season.
Rich Rodriguez and his staff are literally expecting big things from 6’8″ and 316-pound California transfer Freddie Tagaloa, who started seven games at right and left guard for the Golden Bears in his freshman and sophomore years.
A blessing for Rodriguez is the early-season non-conference schedule to allow his offensive line to gain experience and an understanding of the tendencies of quarterback Anu Solomon and running back Nick Wilson.
Click on “Next” in the slideshow to see Arizona’s depth chart at each position on the line, including tight end …
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