“I am literally going to murder you, I love it.”
If you’re starting a pocket quarterback, like Kentucky is this season, you’d better have a good offensive line. That’s not exactly rocket science, yet it can often go overlooked. To say they’re important in the offense is an understatement, but there’s a reason Tom Brady once gave members of his O-line Audi SUVs: they give him the time in the pocket he needs to be, well, Tom Brady.
That’s why the Herald-Leader asked Kentucky’s offensive linemenwhat makes them effective; after all, they’ve only given up three sacks so far this year. Their answer? Not speed, or brawn, but brains. According to guard Larry Warford, “We know we’re not the strongest offensive line; we’re not the fastest, but we’re going to be the smartest.”
Offensive linemen are typically considered some of the smartest guys on the field anyway. Tackles and centers are perennially the top two scorers on the Wonderlic test administered at the NFL scouting combine. So to say you want to be the smartest O-line, well… you’re saying something.
Have they backed it up, though? Attitude is one thing, but you need the stats to back it up if you want people to take you seriously. Well, consider first that UK is currently 18th nationally in passing yards. After two games, Max Smith is 65/89 (73%) for 634 yards and six touchdowns. If there were an NCAA version of Fantasy Football, Mr. Smith would be making his owners very happy. Unfortunately, the metric for measuring the O-line is pretty vague; you really have to look at the backs to see how well it’s doing. But is there much chance that Smith would be doing so well if his line wasn’t giving him ample protection? No, there really isn’t.
Additionally, UK’s top three running backs are averaging 9.6, 8.7, and 6.2 yards per carry. Is that because they’re just that good, and can dodge tackles all day long? Well, give them some credit, that’s a hard job and they’ve been doing well. But the real magic happens with the blocking, and these backs have had some holes to run through that have allowed them to get those averages up. Last year, our leading average rusher with 30+ carries was Matt Roark, who picked up 5.4 yards per carry. That’s a far cry from the current averages. Granted, SEC play will take its toll, but the promising start gives hope that the offensive production will be able to continue fairly well in the Conference.
So maybe the honor roll awards, lofty majors like biology and engineering, and film-study sessions are paying off. The offense has been clicking pretty well to start the season, and it all starts with the line. Hopefully they’re studying the Hilltoppers this week.