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Line still looking for consistency

Matt Lozar | Thursday, October 14, 2004

On the surface, it looked like the offensive line was going to be a sure-fire strength for the 2004 Irish.Four returning starters, with 2002 Connecticut Gatorade Player of the Year John Sullivan being the only new starter, appeared to have left their struggles in the baptism by fire season of 2003. It’s not that easy.Three of those four returning starters are playing a different position in 2004, which is a potential reason for the line’s inconsistency.”Any time you’re not as consistent as you want to be, you’re searching for any answer and every answer that’s out there,” Irish offensive line coach Mike Denbrock said. “We’re going to continue to dig and work and find the answers that we need to be more productive as an offensive group.”Shifting three players around on the line – Ryan Harris from right to left tackle, Bob Morton from center to left guard and Mark LeVoir from left guard to right tackle – obviously forces the players to learn new techniques and responsibilities dependent on their new position.That’s something that doesn’t just happen overnight. Morton feels the line is going down the right path in becoming more familiar with their new positions.”The reasons why, and stuff like that, the offensive line has talked about, and it’s going to stay with the offensive line,” he said. “Maybe when it’s all said and done, we’ll let all you guys know, but for now we’ll keep it to ourselves. We know there are places we need to go and things we need to do, and we are taking the steps to get there.”Offensive coordinator Bill Diedrick complimented the line for its pass blocking against Purdue, despite giving up seven sacks. Diedrick justified his statement by saying when the defense knows an offense must throw the ball on every down, it can pin back its ears and just come after the quarterback. In that game, the Irish rushed for just 76 yards on 36 attempts.Last week against Stanford, the line kept plugging away as the Irish gained 149 yards on the ground, albeit taking 51 attempts. So now, it comes down to putting it all together.”From the first week of the season, we’ve been right there, it’s just a matter of getting it done, and that’s one thing we’re always striving for,” Morton said. “One of these weeks we are going to get it right, and it will be a real fun thing to watch.”With only five games left in the regular season, there’s not a lot of time to put it all together, but Denbrock feels this team hasn’t leveled off yet and is still striving to reach its peak.”I look forward to us continuing to make progress, and I think the most encouraging thing is at this point of the season a lot of teams can kind of level out and finish out the string, play hard but not really improve,” Denbrock said. “But what I’ve seen from our players right now, they’re interested in still improving as a football team, and with that in mind, we have a chance to be pretty good before it’s all done.”