Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Weis and the OL | by Michael

Here's a recent Boston Herald article that discusses the current Patriots' OL. It gives a little insight into their scheme and what kind of offensive linemen that Weis will probably target as OL.

The key phrase for me was the following:

"Of course, that's by design. The offense devised by Belichick and offensive coordinator Charlie Weis calls for a wide use of screens, draws and pulling linemen. That means the Pats need athletic blockers, and those players tend to be smaller."

Some may be wondering, 'Are those guys on our roster yet?' There might be a few but there aren't a lot; Davie did a poor job recruiting anything other than bigger, slower OGs, and Willingham did a poor job recruiting OL number-wise. Therefore, I would fully expect Weis to take advantage of the OL talent already on hand and use less of what has been so effective for the Patriots this year. Now it certainly appeared in 2003 that Morton, Stevenson & Levoir were all playing overweight, and this year they seemed considerably lighter, so it wouldn't be out of the realm of possibilities to believe that they could continue to redefine their body shape and approach the kind of OL shape which Weis wants. I'll go on a limb, though, and say it wouldn't surprise me if Dan Santucci found a home somewhere along the OL. With Ryan Harris, Santucci is one of the best athletes we have, and with good coaching, both should excel next year.

As far as recruiting, it's hard to say what Weis' initial strategy may be when it comes to OL, but is there reason to be concerned? Short-term, perhaps, but long-term? Hardly. Let's take a look at the high school careers of the 5 starting OL for the Patriots.

RT Brandon Gorin (Purdue) - Earned first team all-state honors as a defensive tackle at Southside (Muncie, Ind.) High School in Muncie … Played on the school’s nationally-ranked basketball team and competed in track and field as discus thrower.

C Dan Koppen - Earned All-State, All-Area and All-East Penn Conference first-team honors as a senior offensive lineman/defensive end … Captured Prep Star All-American accolades as a senior … Big 33 selection in 1998 … Had 10 sacks and scored eight touchdowns, carrying the ball on occasion … Earned defensive MVP honors in the 1997 Kaylee Rotary Bowl … Also played in the 1998 McDonald’s Lehigh Valley all-star classic … All-Conference second-team selection as a junior … Served as team captain as a senior … Versatile athlete who was also a two-year track and basketball letterman.

LT Matt Light (Purdue) - Second-team Division II all-state choice as a linebacker, adding All-Darke County, all-conference and All-Southwest District honors as a senior at Greenville (Ohio) High ... Three-year two-way starter who played guard as sophomore, tackle as junior and tight end as senior ... As a senior, he had 69 tackles, including 15 stops for 63 yards in losses, two forced fumbles and two pass break-ups … Added four catches for 75 yards with one touchdown ... Also lettered in track ... State qualifier, district champion, all-conference and all-county pick in the shot put.

LG Joe Andruzzi (Southern Connecticut St) - All-city selection in football at Tottenville High School in Staten Island, N.Y. where he was an offensive and defensive tackle.

RG Stephen Neal (Cal State-Bakersfield) - A five-sport athlete at San Diego High School, he competed in wrestling, football, swimming, tennis and track and field.

Not only were none of them high draft picks, but none of them were on any Lemming, Superprep or equivalent Top 100 lists. Neal didn't even play collegiate football.

Here's the quandry. You can't really make big, slow guys much faster than they are. Because of that, in the years ahead, I think our recruiting rankings may suffer a little because we'll offer more TEs and smaller OL with good footwork and quickness but who lack impressive highlight reels of pancake block after pancake block. But there's good reason - their previous successes - to believe that Weis, with rumored OL coach John Latina [Clemson, Kansas State, Ole Miss, Pitt (under Joe Moore)] can put together a NASTY offensive line. Purely speculating, fans may get annoyed or upset that we aren't landing as many "name" OL targets, but at the same time, Weis' productive offenses should be able to start attracting more skill position players.

In fact, he may already have his strategy underway. Three of his initial phone calls after taking the job were to one current TE verbal, Joey Hiben, and two other uncommitted TEs - Erik Lorig, whose name hasn't been mentioned in months, and James Dray. Coincidence? Hard to say. But all three are extremely talented and can play multiple positions...