Talent in the Trenches
Coach: Bill Bedenbaugh
Mike Stoops says offensive line coach and running game coordinator Bill Bedenbaugh’s career familiarity with the spread offense has provided UA’s front with a teacher well schooled in the system, another advantage for the Cats in 2007 during the transformation.
Bedenbaugh worked with new UA offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes at Texas Tech and knows the attack from front to back and side to side. That expertise led to his additional role as running game coordinator.
Starting tackles Eben Britton and Graniello, center Blake Kerley and guards Daniel Borg and Joe Longacre give UA a unit that’s worked together, played together and now adapted together in gleaning the nuances of spread football. Britton was an honorable mention All-Pac-10 pick in his first year.
The understudies have little experience, but were quality recruits and have talent. Junior letterman guard Bill Wacholz has played, but the rest are redshirts or missed 2006 with injury, such as converted tight end Adam Grant, who was pegged to contend for the left tackle role but had knee trouble last year. Junior college redshirt James Tretheway also figures there, Wacholz and redshirt freshman Conan Amituanai and Jovon Hayes will back up at guard, and redshirt freshmen center Colin Baxter and tackle Cory Elmore also figure to contend, as could another converted tight end-tackle, Cody Anderson. All give UA some valuable depth.
“It’s football,” says Stoops of offensive line play. “You either block that guy or that guy,” and the 2007 group is capable, he said.
Protecting the quarterback is one obvious objective. Arizona gave up 31 sacks by opponents a year ago, and a number of them jarred starter Willie Tuitama enough to cause the eventual use of three quarterbacks. That loss of continuity hurt.
The top of the line from left to right:
LT Pete Graniello
LG Daniel Borg
C Blake Kerley
RG Joe Longacre
RT Eben Britton
Borg filled in at tackle in spring ball and can play just about any position, but should be an all-league caliber guard. Britton, Stoops feels, is a guy who will reach All-America status some day and maybe soon. “He’s as good a young offensive lineman as I’ve seen,” says he, and that says a lot from where he’s been.
For the last couple of years there hasn’t been much substitution up front, but UA could have some breathers for the big guys this season, thanks to the younger players who’ve spent time in the weight room and are physically prepared.
Eben Britton, 6-6, 290, So., 1L
Peter Graniello, 6-5, 296, Sr., 3L
James Tretheway, 6-6, Jr., RS
Adam Grant, 6-6, 285, So., SQ
Cody Anderson, 6-6, 280, Fr-RS
Cory Elmore, 6-5, 270, Fr-RS
Daniel Borg, 6-5, 270, So., 1L
Joe Longacre, 6-3, 303, Jr., 2L
Bill Wacholz, 6-6, 294, Jr., 1L
Conan Amituanai, 6-4, 285, Fr-RS
Jovon Hayes, 6-2, 310, Fr-RS
Blake Kerley, 6-2, 275, So., 1L
Colin Baxter, 6-4, 295, Fr-RS
Position Notes... Sophomore tackle Britton earned 2nd-team Freshman All-America honors in ’06 (TSN/Rivals/Scout)... Blake Kerley played every snap as a redshirt freshman at center after an ’05 season when walk-on Erick Levitre did virtually the same...The Cats did not sign an offensive lineman in the ’07 class, although several took visits. Those positions and cornerback may be an emphasis in the 2008 class... Line coach Bedenbaugh is UA’s running game coordinator, working in a staff-wide collaboration to get the rushing attack started up front... Senior Peter Graniello is an electrical engineering major and a good student who earned honorable mention Academic All-Pac-10 last year. A good year should position the 6-foot-5, 290-pounder for the ’08 NFL draft... UA has had injuries at left guard and started six different guys there the past three years, but Borg should be a steady factor for awhile. And with Graniello the only senior, the line will be good beyond 2007... Conan Amituanai worked at defensive tackle during much of his redshirt freshman year in 2005, but has switched to the other side, where he'll work at guard... Tight ends coach Dana Dimel is a good collaborator for the fellows in the front line. His guys are a big part of the running game and pass protection, of course. He was offensive line coach for six years at Kansas State, running game coordinator for a pair of years there, offensive coordinator for two years there, and a head coach for six years at Wyoming and Houston...