The offensive line was a unit that continued to grow together as the 2011 season progressed. While there wasn't much positive to take from the program's most disappointing season in nearly a decade, the offensive line's progression was one of the few silver linings the team could take from what was a disappointing campaign.
The interior portion of the line, specifically, saw growth late in the campaign and the group is hoping to take that momentum created in 2011 and ride it into the upcoming season.
With a new staff in place and a new system to learn, there is an extra obstacle or two the unit must overcome in order to get to where it needs to be by the start of the season. At least with a year together under their belts, the group understands each other much better than it did at this time 12 months ago.
Most likely holding the starting center position for the second straight year will be Kyle Quinn
. The 6-foot-3, 294-pounder had his fair share of struggles at the beginning of the season, but he ended the season nicely. He will be counted on to provide improved pass and run blocking along the interior.
should serve as Quinn's first backup and he played in spurts this past season. At 6-foot-4, 297-pounds, Bachman has a similar frame to Quinn and is as serviceable as any backup that can be found at center.
is a player that can get reps at center if required, although he will also see time as a backup guard. Arzouman is still looking to add weight and strength, so it could be some time before he sees any real action.
Returning at guard are two starters from a season ago in Trace Biskin
and Chris Putton
. Each player served well in pass protection but was inconsistent when it came to run blocking. With a year of experience as a full-time starter under each of their belts, the Wildcats hope both Putton and Biskin are much more acclimated to their starting positions. If they continue to progress, it could be big news for the UA rushing attack.
There is some depth behind both Putton and Biskin, but there is also some concern. After an off-the-field incident, Eric Bender-Ramsay
's status is a bit in question. The criminal assault charge Bender-Ramsay would have faced has been dropped, but he still has to address the trespassing charge. Bender-Ramsay is a big body at 6-foot-6, 333-pounds and will be a huge boost to the depth of the line if he can return.
and Faitele Faafoi
should also compete for backup spots. Lees has seen limited action in his time in college, so that should give him more of a leg up on the competition. Faafoi is coming off a redshirt season and has a lot of potential, but cracking the rotation right away is going to be a challenge.
The 2012 recruiting class brings a pair of interior linemen in Beau Boyster
and Zach Hemmila
. Boyster, a center, and Hemmila, a guard, both have a lot of upside and could start at some point down the road. The likelihood of either of them seeing the field as true freshmen is miniscule, but each should be expected to make an impact at some point during their college careers.
In many ways, the interior line is the key to the success of the offense. While the unit improved steadily as the 2011 season progressed, the interior line was probably a step behind the tackles in terms of development. If both the guards and centers can show they have elevated their game, the offensive line – as a whole – could develop into one of the better units in the Pac-12.
Much of Arizona's success will depends on its offensive line. Read on for a closer look at what the Wildcats currently have and the players coming in as well.