Aug. 30, 2012
WASHINGTON - Offensive linemen rarely win individual awards and do not get the same publicity as their "skill position" counterparts on the offensive side of the ball. But as the 2012 Georgetown University football team prepares to "finish the job," the Hoyas deep, experienced group of offensive linemen will work to play with a level of physicality and aggression that will make opponents remember them well after game day.
In his first training camp with Georgetown, new offensive line coach Brian Miller, who spent the past two seasons at University of Kansas before taking over in the spring, has preached playing with toughness and a mean attitude. So far, Miller a fiery, intense presence in practice, likes the mean, physical attitude his players have shown during camp, and has been pleased well as the strong condition his the linemen arrived to camp with.
"Football to me, the way I've come through playing and coaching, is about lining up and beating up the guy on the other side," Miller said. "So having that toughness, you take away a lot of the uncertainty of football by physically beating your opponent to a pulp. So if we can instill that physicality up front it makes running the ball or throwing the ball easier."
The early returns have been promising, as Miller has heard positive feedback from the defensive players and coaches throughout training camp.
"I've heard from the defensive lineman and defensive line coach how our guys are tougher," Miller said. "It's starting to aggravate people and we want to play with that chip on our shoulder and we're starting to get that from most of our guys."
Through training camp, Miller has also witnessed a bond develop among the team's offensive lineman, something that the coach hopes will show up on the field, as it has in the unit getting in the weight room together.
"On Sunday, they all lifted weights together," Miller recalled. "It was an optional lift, so they all got together and went and lifted. You're seeing the camaraderie and the commitment to each other and once you get that it all builds on itself. They are starting to understand what it's going to take to get to a championship level, so you see guys getting out there early and staying late."
Leadership to help build that camaraderie is not something that Miller has had to work on cultivating. The Hoyas offensive line returns a wealth of experience, talent and toughness to work, as GU returns six players that have starting experience along the front five. The group includes senior Kevin Sullivan, the first offensive linemen to earn the prestigious Joe Eacobacci Memorial No. 35 jersey. Sullivan, who has played all along the line during his three previous season's will move to center for the 2012 season, after spending most of his time at right tackle in 2011.
"The way I understand it is that Joe Eacobacci lived by the Jesuit thought "A man for others" and I see that in Kevin," Miller said. "He's a man for others in terms of how he plays. He's concerned about the unit whether that's the offensive line, the offense or the team."
Senior Donald Rhodes brings experience and toughness to the interior, holding the starting spot at left guard. Rhodes who started all 11 games during his sophomore year dealt with injuries last season, but still played six games, starting three.
"Don Rhodes is another senior who has been a leader," Miller said. "He's helped in bringing the young guys up and getting everyone playing together. There's a toughness to both Kevin and Don, this is a game where it's a street fight every play. They get dings and bumps and bruises and they keep coming back for more."
The Hoyas will feature a pair of junior tackles, with James Spaly projected to start on the left side, protecting Isaiah Kempf's blindside, while Michael Francis, who started at center and guard last year after spending his freshman season as a defensive lineman will move to right tackle to utilize his quickness and athleticism. Miller has been excited about the play of both, noting the good feet and athleticism that both provide on the outside.
"Jim has had a phenomenal camp, he's very coachable, so everything that you tell him he works on," Miller said. "He's made himself stronger by putting in the work in the weight room in the offseason, so he's got a nice punch and he's always had good feet and he understands the concepts of what we're trying to do."
"The nice thing about Michael is he has that mentality of a defensive lineman," Miller said. "I love guys that come over from defense because you don't have to teach them to be mean."
Mike Roland earned Second Team All-Patriot League honors as a freshman and was a preseason All-Patriot League selection. Roland, who is expected to start at right guard, has also been praised by coaches for the amount of work he put in during the team's offseason conditioning program.
"Mike has phenomenal feet and the ability to change positions," Miller said. "He will primarily play guard for us, but he excels at tackle when we need him to go there and the versatility is helpful. He's a strong kid, when he gets his hands on you, you're in trouble."
The promising fact for this group is the amount of depth the Blue & Gray have behind the projected starters, with several players like Thomas Gallagher, who have played at a high level for the Hoyas.
Aside from Gerverus Flagg, the Hoyas have a host of promising freshmen who could contribute if needed.
"The one thing about them is they have all taken their licks but have gotten back up and keep fighting, learning from the older guys and getting better," Miller said. "They work really hard. Matt Hungate has been doing a great job at center and that's tough because you have to make line calls and get the ball to the quarterback. Then you have the two kids on the ends in Kevin Liddy and James Heine and they've been doing nothing but excelling in improving their technique."
Ultimately the Hoyas offensive line will play a large role in the success of the team during the 2012 season, regardless of any of them earning individual weekly honors or pats on the back from the league, media or even their classmates.
"Up front, is one of those positions that's a lot like life," Miller said. "You're going to work hard, you're going to do what you need to do for your teammates, for the most part you're not going to get a lot of pats on the back or praise, but you'll get the satisfaction out of the job."
Tickets are now on sale for all 2012 Georgetown Football home games. For more information and to purchase, please click here [ http://www.guhoyas.com/tickets/m-footbl-tickets.html] or contact the Georgetown Athletic Ticket Office at 202-687-HOYA (4692) or firstname.lastname@example.org.