BallStateinsider.com writers Doug Schrader, Andy Thorpe and Levin Black recently had a conversation on the position of offensive line with 4 of the Cardinals regular contributors at the position. First on the clock is starting center Jr. Dan Gerberry and starting tackle and sometimes guard So. John Purdy.
BSI: Tell us about the goals you have from week to week that you set up and that the coaches have for you as a unit:
John Purdy: Our goals are play hard every day and practice hard every day. We always want to not give up any sacks and to make sure we do our assignments; that kind of thing.
Dan Gerberry: Our main goal is to score one more point than the other offense. We don’t set total yardage goals. Sure we want to go out and put up 400 – 500 yards a game. Every offense wants to do that, but we know that if we go out and play the way we are capable of playing and play hard every play we will succeed.
BSI: Tell us about the post game aspect, how you guys critique how you played and what does Coach John Powers grade you on:
DG: The whole team meets, then the offense meets and then the positions meet – all on Sunday. The coach breaks it down with a scoring system, which is, zero - you did your job and that’s good, you made your block. A negative is a where you missed you assignment totally or you didn’t do exactly what you are supposed to do. If you get a positive, that means you pretty much annihilated someone. Coach Powers breaks down, by 12 on Sunday, every play on offense and what we did.
BSI: So how are you graded:
DG: You want to get into the 90s, does that happen, no, I have probably been in the 90s two or three times total in my career. Really the grading, it goes down to each play. If I am supposed block the guy across from me on a given play, I can block him and that is good, but if I don’t lead with the right foot or get square on him, if I don’t get my splits right, I pretty much have a minus right off the bat.
BSI: So does that grading system vary by play, meaning can you get more points on certain plays and more negatives on others.
DG: Yes, I guarantee you if you run a naked, where you are just running down that line and you keep your pads low . . . you won’t get a minus. But on the other hand, if you do a 5-step drop, there is so much time and so many things to do, that you can get a whole lot of negatives on you just from one play.
BSI: Dan, as the center you have a lot of weight on your shoulders, take us through a little of what goes on before each play for a center.
DG: No doubt about it for me anyway, I have to call out the defense, tell everyone who they have and sometimes change a call. By the time the ball is snapped there are 3 things I could have a minus on. I have to identify how many down linemen there are, if there in a 3 or a 4 down defense and identify the MIKE linebacker.
BSI: So what happens if the defense shifts right before the ball is snapped?
DG: A lot of times, if it is too late, you kind of have to go with what you called. If you try changing it late, you might get guys on different pages. You have to make the best judgment right away and make that call because if you are someplace loud and you are trying to make a call . . . there is a good chance that Purdy out there at tackle isn’t going to hear the change. So you just have to use your best judgment.
BSI: Speaking of loud stadiums, how does that affect the snap count?
JP: If we are in hurry up and we can’t hear, like at Nebraska, sometimes you have to peak in a little at the ball to get an idea of when it is being snapped.
DG: Yeah, if we are in a hurry situation, like Purdy said, you can’t hear, sometimes we have the tackles and guards clasp hands and the guard can see the ball hiked so he lets go and that lets the tackles know the ball is snapped.
BSI: Holding? What can you do and not do when blocking to avoid holding calls?
JP: Your hands have to stay inside the framework and you can hold as much as you want if you are inside that frame work. If your hands get outside then you can get the flag.
BSI: One final question, what kind of defensive lineman gives you the most fits? Is it the tall, heavy guy or is it the quicker, shorter, lighter guy?
DG: It doesn’t matter to me if a guy is short or tall, but if he is good at technique and good at what he does. If he is quick, that is hard, but it is all about if they are good at what they do. My freshman year there was a kid at Central Michigan that was BIG he was not going to be moved. You ran into him and boom, he wouldn’t move. Jones, the kid now at CMU now, he is long armed and quick. That makes my arms hurt blocking him. So, either way, as long as they are good at what they do, then they are going to be tough to block.
JP: Height isn’t a big thing, but if they have long arms, that can be an issue.