Any Given Saturday
By Chris Bunn
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Wake Forest finds itself having to replace this crucial part of their offense. Of the 65 starts from their offensive line, 50 of them are gone.
In what is arguably the greatest motivational speech in cinematic history, Coach Tony D'Amato (Al Pacino) says football is a game of inches. "Because in either game - life or football - the margin for error is so small. I mean, one half a step too late or too early and you don't quite make it. One half second too slow, too fast and you don't quite catch it. The inches we need are everywhere around us. They're in every break of the game, every minute, every second."
There is no place on the field where inches are more magnified than in the trenches. A guard pulls his man an inch to the left and what seems like a stuffed gap becomes a gaping hole. A defensive end dips his shoulder just an inch by the tackle and he's got a beeline for the quarterback. He doesn't get that inch and the tackle picks up the block. These are make or break plays. Now, there are moments in the game where inches won't make a difference on the surface, but in every play, a circumstance occurs where an inch, a second, a fleeting moment changes that play from a three-yard loss to a 15-yard gain, or vice versa.
It is for these reasons that having a great offensive line is the linchpin to a great offense. One with experience, chemistry, and trust can do many things that a bigger and stronger line cannot if they lack those traits.
Wake Forest finds itself having to replace this crucial part of their offense. Of the 65 starts from their offensive line (5 spots with 13 starts), 50 of them are gone. Only Garrick Williams (12 starts) and Steven Chase remain from an offensive line that gave up 35 sacks last season (7.7% of passing plays, third most in the ACC). Interestingly enough, the line will actually get a little bit taller while giving up about five pounds total. Obviously, these numbers will change after spring and summer workouts. The departing four linemen; Dennis Godfrey, Joe Looney, Michael Hoag, and Doug Weaver had 89 combined career starts that will now be replaced by a unit that has a whopping three.
The key will be developing trust and chemistry during the spring that can make up for the lack of experience. I expect that the overall numbers will take a step back this season.
In the immortal words of Coach D'Amato: "You've got to look at the guy next to you, look into his eyes. Now I think ya going to see a guy who will go that inch with you. Your gonna see a guy who will sacrifice himself for this team, because he knows when it comes down to it your gonna do the same for him. That's a team, gentlemen, and either we heal now as a team, or we will die as individuals. That's football guys, that's all it is. Now, what are you gonna do? "