March 17, 2010

New look on the A&M offensive line this spring

Going into last season, Texas A&M's offensive line was perhaps the most maligned part of the team despite the return of four starters from the 2008 season. Not much had changed in that regard by the time the Aggies went into Lubbock following a 62-14 loss to Kansas State that left them 3-3 on the season.

Even though A&M boasted one of the country's most productive offensive attacks from a statistical standpoint, the Aggies had trouble running the ball against the likes of the Wildcats, Arkansas and Oklahoma State. Nothing seemed to indicate that things would be much different going into a place where A&M had not won since 1993.

But in the one of the mot remarkable turnarounds in A&M history, the Aggies cruised to 52-30 shellacking of the Red Raiders. Not only that, the Aggies rushed for an astounding 321 yards and had two runners - Cyrus Gray and Christine Michael - with over 100 yards each.

Although Gray and Michael received due effort for their credit, looking at replays of the game it was the inspired play of a revamped offensive line with Evan Eike as a first time starter at guard that paved the way for A&M's success. In fact, A&M rushed for more than 190 yards in four of their last six regular season games and surrendered just 11 sacks in that stretch.

Lee Grimes, who was the primary blocker on many of those late season running plays, and Michael Shumard, who protected Jerrod Johnson's blind side so well even though he was probably better suited to be a guard, are gone along with center Kevin Matthews. Although much of the spotlight has been focused on an incoming freshman class that was ranked as one of the best in the country by Rivals.com, most of the big guys will not be around until June.

In the interim, A&M will have to find a pair of tackles from a number of different candidates.

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