In collaboration with our Gannett partner, The Arizona Republic, we will be providing a weekly series throughout the summer, previewing the Arizona Wildcats football team.
The Republic sent a photographer to Tucson three times in the spring to capture the pictures needed for its slick presentation of the preview, which you can find here at azcentral.com. You can also read about those other guys all summer in the ASU preview.
At TucsonCitizen.com, we can’t offer the cool look of the preview that you’ll find on azcentral.com, but we’ll give you the text and some of the photography.
Here is the third part: The offensive line. Look for updates every Friday.
It doesn’t take long to add up the returning starts among Arizona’s offensive linemen: One.
With no seniors on the two deep and having the distinction of being the nation’s least experienced offensive line, it was no surprise that coach Mike Stoops, when asked what quality new line coach Robert Anae needed to bring to the position, answered:
Said Anae: “We’re all rookies.”
Center Colin Baxter and tackle Adam Grant will be missed, but the good news is that the starting group has healthy knees, is more athletic and can grow up together.
“The progress that needed to be made was made,” Stoops said of the spring performance of the offensive line. “This group has the potential to be really good. They have a high ceiling.”
Baucus was the closest to playing last season among the four freshman linemen who redshirted, but Arizona stayed healthy enough to preserve his year of eligibility.
Now, he has a chance to be a four-year starter at the important left tackle spot. At 6-foot-8 and 295 pounds, he fits the line’s new identity of being longer, leaner and more athletic.
“Our tackles are all good athletes. They come from more athletic backgrounds,” said coach Mike Stoops. “The problem with those guys might be that they are still growing into their bodies … and that can be awkward at times.”
Baucus was a Chicago Tribune second-team all-state pick as a senior in Mundelein, Ill., before following his brother Jack, a tight end, to Arizona.
Putton has five games of experience as a backup last season, playing as the team’s primary reserve at guard once Vaughn Dotsy (back) couldn’t make a go of it after a few games. That experience, such as it is, makes Putton the team’s second-most experienced offensive lineman.
Considering his practice time with the first-team offense at various points of last season, he should be fairly entrenched on the left side of the line this season.
Putton, from Glendale Cactus High School, committed to Arizona in October 2008 and was one of the Wildcats’ top in-state recruits in that class, along with Tucson kids Adam Hall and Jake Fischer. Putton was first-team all-state in class 4A by the Arizona Republic.
With his one career start coming in last season’s Alamo Bowl, Quinn is the clear leader of the line, likely to become a team spokesman of sorts as a junior on an all-new starting front.
“We’re definitely developing an attitude to where we don’t want to be talked about in a negative way,” Quinn said of the offensive line.
Quinn played well in the bowl game, according to coach Mike Stoops, using that as a launching pad toward a good offseason. In the bowl, Quinn replaced injured Colin Baxter, who had started 48 consecutive games.
“He has everything it takes to be a leader and to really help this offensive line mature,” Stoops said. “Kyle is a very athletic center. He’s a very polished player for not playing (much).”
Biskin has waited three seasons for this opportunity to start, redshirting in 2008 and then appearing briefly across the past two seasons.
“I have been waiting for this and working hard, and I think this year is my time to shine, really,” Biskin said. “That was my goal at the end of last year’s bowl game. I think we all were very disappointed and we took it upon ourselves to get better and make a statement.”
Biskin, from Oaks Christian High in Westlake Village, Calif., arrived as tackle. He might bring a bit of a brawler mentality to guard, repeating one of offensive line coach Robert Anae’s mottos:
“You can correct mistakes,” Biskin said, “but you can’t correct toughness.”
Ebbele is from Chicago, part of former offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh’s recruiting push in the area. Before Bedenbaugh left for West Virginia after last season, he said Ebbele and starting left tackle Mickey Baucus (also from the Chicago area) had the skills to develop to be as good as any tackles he has coached.
Ebbele said one of his biggest areas of emphasis last season as a redshirt was footwork as he adapted to the speed of the game.
“There were some adjustments coming to the West, because there are some really fast defensive ends,” he said.
Ebbele said he would continue to talk up Arizona back home.
“It’s nice here year-round,” he said. “There are some great guys there, so we’re going to try to get them here.”
Here’s another redshirt freshman offensive tackle for Arizona and, like projected starters Mickey Baucus and Fabbians Ebbele, he is a tall, rangy prospect from another part of the country.
Spurgeon was something of a recruiting coup for the Cats, a four-star Rivals.com prospect out of Owasso, Okla., near Tulsa. Rivals.com rated Spurgeon as the fifth-best prospect from the state of Oklahoma after the 2009 season.
Spurgeon was at the ready last year, as the coaches took him on some road trips to be available in case of injuries. He enters fall camp behind the other redshirt freshman tackles but, in some ways, the competition is just beginning, and he is considered a key part of the future of the line.
Arizona went to Sugar Land, Texas, a couple of years ago to bring back Lees, a 320-pounder who is one of four redshirt freshman offensive linemen on the depth chart. He knew when he committed that the 2011 season would represent his chance to get on the field.
“That was the big thing. I was going to have an opportunity to compete,” Lees said. “Normally, you get shuffled off for a couple of years. It’s just an opportunity.”
He will enter fall camp behind Chris Putton at left guard. Lees comes from an option offense in high school, so he still has a lot to learn in Arizona’s pass-blocking scheme for its spread offense. How quickly he picks that up could determine 2011 playing time.
Arizona was looking for at least one mid-year junior college transfer on the offensive line — and it got one in Bachman, from Citrus College in Glendora, Calif.
He was brought in to compete at center with Kyle Quinn, with the thought being that whoever didn’t win the starting job could move to guard. We’ll see if that plays out in the fall, but Arizona basically stuck with the same starting five through spring camp, with Bachman backing up Quinn.
Bachman gives the Cats a dose of experience in their backup ranks and, at worst, some needed insurance.
His cleats bear the inscription “Playing for Ry” — a remembrance of his brother Ryan, who died in a surfing accident in the summer of 2006 in a surfing accident.
The redshirt sophomore should push for a starting job in fall camp after coming back from a forearm injury that cost him development time last fall and in the spring.
He has otherwise been impressive in practices, earning the team’s scout team MVP Award for offense in 2009 and then looking good in 2010 fall camp before running into injury issues.
He’s an athletic prospect at 6-foot-6 and 325 pounds, and he has some position flexibility between tackle and guard. He was listed as a backup right guard in the spring; he certainly would be one of the taller guards anywhere — definitely imposing when he pulls for running plays.
What Zink has going for him is that he has been in the program longer than most of the other offensive linemen, arriving for 2009 spring ball. He also has playing experience, having spent the 2008 season at Shasta College in Redding, Calif., before transferring to Arizona at the semester break.
Zink, a junior, redshirted at Arizona in 2009. Like the team’s other prospects at tackle, he has the requisite size for the position (6-7, 302 pounds), although some of the younger guys might have better overall athleticism.
Zink, if an opening for playing time arrives, will have to use his slight edge in age and experience to claim some starting reps.