Vaught's Views: UK offensive line has more questions than answers

October 15, 2003|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - Everyone knew Kentucky would miss Artose Pinner. What team wouldn't miss the Southeastern Conference's leading rusher, a back with speed to outrun tacklers or the power to run over them?

Everyone knew Kentucky would miss receiver Aaron Boone, a player who just seemed to have a knack for turning receptions into touchdowns.

Everyone might not have realized how much Kentucky would miss tight end Chase Harp. He could block for the running game or slip into the secondary to catch a pass. He also brought a certain intensity to the field that few players can match.

But everyone also knew that Kentucky's offensive line had five returning starters and assumed those players - Antonio Hall, Sylvester Miller, Nick Seitze, Matt Huff and Jason Rollins - would be able to open holes for other running backs as well as protect quarterback Jared Lorenzen again.


However, in a season full of disappointments for new coach Rich Brooks and his players, the biggest disappointment has been the offensive line. Either the group was way overrated last year or it has played far below its potential this year.

"This is a more complex offense. I'm not saying it is too complex, but each game is different and you have to make adjustments," said Miller, a senior guard.

"We are still having fun on the offensive line. You've got to have fun to play in the line because you don't get a lot of credit for doing things right. If we were protecting well and we were running the ball, you wouldn't be standing here interviewing me. Once Jared gets sacked, we don't get many yards and we struggle to move the ball, then the offensive line gets interviewed."

He's right about that. When the line blocks well, the credit normally goes to others. But when the offense sputters, especially after the offensive line proclaimed in the preseason that it should be the offense's main strength, then the questions are going to come.

Question one: Should the line be blamed for the team's offensive woes?

"We know we are not playing as well as we need to play to win," Miller said. "It's nothing we are going to run from and hide the fact that we've had breakdowns. We are willing to take the blame and try to work harder on our blocking.

"I know we haven't played as well as we can, or should. When we do play as well as we can, there's no one in the nation that can stop our offensive line. But when we have the breakdowns like we have, we could play St. Mary of the Poor and they could get through our line."

Question two: Why are the same guys who played well last year not playing the same way this season?

"You have a different system and philosophy. We don't have a running back like Artose. We miss Boone," Miller said. "We also had a big, physical tight end last year that not only could catch passes, but could block as well as anyone. It was a big deal to have a tight end like Chase and a running back like Artose who wasn't afraid to stick his head in and block. They made us a much more physical team than we are this year."

Question three: Is the offense too complex and causing alignment problems as well as mental mistakes?

"We were in a different offense last year. It was real simple where we just kept grinding," Miller said. "This year we do have a whole lot of different looks. It's complex, but it should win games because it should keep defenses from just having to be ready for the same five running plays and three or four pass plays. The offense is fine. It's the execution that has been bad."

Final question: Grade the offensive line on a 1-10 scale with 10 being the highest?

"I am not even going to rate my offensive line. I couldn't give us a fair grade because we are not doing as well as we need to be doing," Miller said.

Which is something everyone else should have figured out by now, too.

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