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Contact, talking regular part of line play

August 17, 2003|LARRY VAUGHT

If you have never been involved in a Southeastern Conference football game, senior linemen Antonio Hall and Jeremy Caudill say it's impossible to appreciate the physical play in the interior line.

"A lot of times a defensive lineman is going to get double teamed, which means you have two people pounding you instead of one," said Caudill, a defensive end. "If you are an offensive lineman, you've got to watch out for your knees. No matter where you play, your hands will get cut and bloody. It's a physical battle in the trenches, which is why offensive linemen and defensive linemen respect each other so much."

Hall said offensive linemen normally don't rotate in and out of games like defensive linemen do.

"We go against fresh lungs and fresh legs all the time," Hall, a four-year starter at offensive tackle, said. "It's so physical up front. You make contact every play. You better be looking for somebody to hit because somebody is going to hit you. Defensive linemen don't like for you to get your hands on them. When you do, you have to take advantage of it."

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Caudill says it doesn't take long for the physical pounding to take a toll on a lineman.

"Every play you get hit by at least one person. A lot of times it's two. Then if you make a play, you are liable to get hit by three or four people, including some on your own team," Caudill said. "You get hit in the hip, shoulders, chest. Linemen dive at your legs.

"Last year I got through five games OK and then my shoulder started getting sore. In general, you get sore in training camp, build back up and then wear down in the middle of the year. You teach yourself how to push through the pain and learn how to take care of your body."

Evidently linemen learn one other thing - how to talk to opponents. While talking is an accepted part of the game at every position, the close contact in the line tends to make for even more conversation.

"It usually depends on how much the defensive guys are talking," Hall said. "I try to stay away from that as much as possible."

Hall says Georgia defensive end David Pollack always "talks trash" along with almost every defensive lineman at Georgia and Tennessee. However, he says the champion talker he's played against was Dewayne White of Louisville.

"He had a real mouth on him and he never stopped talking," Hall said.

From Caudill's perspective, that's almost a compliment.

"We have a bunch of guys on our defense who love to talk," Caudill said. "On the field, you are normally going to hear the defensive linemen talking more just because if we make a play, we are going to make sure the offense knows about it."

Caudill said the best "trash-talkers" he's played against were Vanderbilt's offensive line in 2001.

"The whole line talked," he said. "But the defense is always going to try and disrupt the offense if we can by talking. If I get a hit on a quarterback, I'm going to tell him I will be coming back to hit him again. You say a few things to try and get inside his head. If I get a running back for a loss, or even make a big hit on him, I want to make sure he knows I'm coming back."

Hall said offensive linemen accept the talking as part of the game, but know they can't let the talking take away from their focus.

"It must be part of every defense's strategy to psyche out the offensive linemen because they all try it," Hall said. "We just normally take it and laugh at them, especially after we block them."

Neither Caudill nor Hall started their football careers thinking they would be Division I linemen.

"I was a linebacker until my sophomore year in high school (in Ohio). Then I moved to the defensive line and then the offensive line because our team needed a guard," Hall, a preseason all-SEC choice, said. "I played pulling guard and my career took off from there. Then I moved to tackle because I could pass block. But I always thought I would be a linebacker."

Caudill played some fullback, tailback and linebacker at Prestonsburg High School. Several schools, including Florida State, recruited him with the idea of perhaps trying him at fullback because of his size and surprising agility and strength.

"The line definitely is not what I always dreamed of playing," Caudill said. "But I kept growing and got put on the defensive line. UK actually started recruiting me as an offensive lineman, but I told them I really preferred defense and that's what they let me do. But I didn't mind moving to the line because you get to hit somebody every play and that's what real football players enjoy doing."

Not that linemen feel skilled players are not "real football players."

"Have you ever seen (receiver Tommy) Cook clean somebody down field?" Hall said. "They take licks and give them, too."

"They actually do a lot of things I wouldn't want to do, like running and sprinting all-out every play," Caudill said. "They are definitely football players."

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