Often overlooked, the offensive linemen are the most important unit of a football team. They do all of the dirty work while protecting the quarterback and opening up holes for the running back. In order for UConn to be successful this season, they need the offensive line to get back to the way they used be during the Randy Edsall years.
In Edsall’s last two years, UConn averaged 2,245 total rushing yards while allowing an average of only 18 sacks. In the three years since Edsall has left, the average total rushing yards has dropped to 1,163 yards while allowing a ridiculous 39 sacks per season. Granted, we UConn fans were blessed with the supremely talented Donald Brown, Andre Dixon, and Jordan Todman at running back. Although this is the case, the offensive line was also very talented and beastly-- the average height and weight of the O-line in the 2010 season was 6-5, 300 pounds.
Hopefully, the offensive line can get back to the way it used to be especially with the talent we have at the skill positions. We will now take a look at the offensive linemen listed in the two-deep depth chart released after training camp, and one who was curiously left off.
LT Richard Levy, Redshirt Sophomore, 6-6, 305 pounds: A native of Trenton, NJ, Levy is going to be a first year starter as he has only seen time in one game while at UConn, against Buffalo last year. This year he is tasked with protecting the blind side from the oppositions best rushers.
LG Gus Cruz, Redshirt Senior, 6-4, 296 pounds: From Manchester NH, Cruz has seen time in each of his three seasons at UConn after being redshirted Freshman year. He played in 8 games as a redshirt freshman along with starting in 5 games the following year. Last season, Cruz started the first 5 games of the year before missing the rest of the season with cardiac issues. It's great to see him healthy and smiling on the field taking a leadership role on the team.
C Alex Mateas, Captain, Redshirt Senior, 6-4, 309 pounds: Mateas is one of four captains for this year’s UConn Huskies. Initially at Penn State, he transferred to UConn in 2011 where he had to sit out a year. In 2012, Mateas started 5 games at Center and played in 8. Last season he was one of three offensive linemen, the only non-senior, to start all 12 games.
RG Tyler Samra, Junior, 6-2, 288 pounds: From Wycoff, NJ, Samra will be making the first starts of his career at UConn this season. Even though he does not have starting experience, he did play 5 games in 2012 and 6 games in 2013. Samra has been a solid contributor to the line and was expected to earn a starting role this year.
RT Dalton Gifford, Redshirt Junior, 6-4, 304 pounds: From Fairhaven, MA he is the third offensive lineman with starting experience along with Cruz and Mateas. After appearing in one game in 2012, Gifford played in 11 games last season including 6 starts at Right Tackle.
RT Andreas Knappe, Redshirt Sophomore, 6-8, 300 pounds: He was named the starting right tackle after spring ball, but has suffered an injury and is no longer on the two-deep depth chart.
LT Paul Nwokeji, Redshirt Junior, 6-6, 287 pounds: Most likely will be the first offensive linemen off the bench in the early part of the season as he is the only back-up who saw action last year, playing one game against Memphis.
LG Trey Rutherford, Freshman, 6-5, 289 pounds: Another lineman from Ontario, Rutherford is a true Freshman who may not end up being redshirted. ESPN says he has great size, good arm length, and the ability to play both tackle positions.
C Kyle Bockeloh, Redshirt Sophomore, 6-3, 284 pounds: He did not see any time last season as a redshirt freshman. Fun fact though: he played with Utah State’s dark-horse Heisman candidate Chuckie Keeton at Cyprus Creek High School in Houston, Texas.
RG Ryan Crozier, Freshman, 6-4, 297 pounds: Another true Freshman who is unlikely to redshirt, Crozier is able to play multiple positions on the offensive line which is always a plus.
RT Thomas Hopkins, Redshirt Freshman, 6-6, 298 pounds: After spending a year redshirting, Hopkins can play a role as a useful back-up with his great size.