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August 26, 2008

Depth perception clear along offensive line

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This is the depth Charlie Weis has been looking for along the offensive line.

The starting front of Sam Young at right tackle, Chris Stewart at right guard, Dan Wenger at center, Eric Olsen at left guard and Mike Turkovich at left tackle has been set pretty much throughout training camp, particularly when Paul Duncan’s hamstring injury prevented him from putting up much of a fight with Turkovich for the starting spot.

Duncan is now healthier and is part of a backup unit that is either fairly experienced (Duncan), has been around for a while (center Thomas Bemenderfer), or is one of a corps of young players with tremendous potential (tackles Matt Romine and Taylor Dever, center Braxston Cave, and guard Trevor Robinson).

“We’re finally at that stage—it’s taken a little time—but we’re finally at the stage where you take a guy out and put the next guy in and you don’t feel like, ‘Oh, God, what’s going to happen now!’” Weis said.

Monday, after revealing the projected starting lineup for San Diego State, Weis talked about his backups along the offensive line.

“Paul Duncan obviously can play guard or tackle,” Weis said. “Matt Romine has come on pretty nicely as a pass-blocking tackle, which is what he came here as. He’s been banged up since he got here, and then he was down to 270. Now he’s back up to the 290s again and he’s playing pretty well.

“We’ve been very happy with Trevor Robinson. We’re not going to be afraid to put him in a game. The Bemenderfer-Cave battle is going on. Right now if you had to flip a coin, Bemer would be the first guy (because of his) experience alone. But that’s a battle that will be ongoing.

“Taylor Dever at right tackle is a prospect that we’ve been high on all along. The question would then be if something happened to Sam, would I take Paul and put him at right tackle? At this point right now, I don’t know yet.”

Bemenderfer recently was awarded a scholarship along with cornerback Mike Anello and punter Eric Maust.

“It’s to the point now with (Bemenderfer) that I don’t look at him as a walk-on,” Weis said. “Forget the fact that he was a scholarship player at Northwestern. He’s just been a solid player for us. If we had to put him in a game, I would not be concerned that the game would fall apart.”

• Pick your poison: Weis gushed about halfbacks Armando Allen, Robert Hughes and James Aldridge Monday.

He views them as interchangeable parts.

“Today, I’d pick Armando (to start),” Weis said. “Yesterday I might have picked Robert.

“I know one thing: all three of them are going to play and they all know it. One of the reasons it has (not) been divisive is because they all know (they’ll play). Because we interchange them so much but still let them get into a flow in practice, they can see how this can work.”

• Four...and perhaps more: The competition at cornerback probably has been as heated as any position during fall camp. Raeshon McNeil, Gary Gray and Robert Blanton have been battling for a starting spot opposite fifth-year senior Terrail Lambert.

McNeil got the nod at left cornerback, but Gray and Blanton will play and likely play quite a bit.

“I think we have at least four that can play, realizing that there are different levels of experience,” Weis said.

“We also have on the horizon two guys. (Junior) Leonard Gordon has been very dependable for us. He’s showed up on special teams for us more than anything else in camp. (Freshman) Jamoris Slaughter is another guy that has a ton of ability that was a little banged up for a lot of early camp. He was coming off a leg injury. He’s really closing ground and gaining our confidence.

“But right now the four guys we have are clearly the four guys we have.”

• Depth chart revelations: How does Weis go about telling the players where they are on the depth chart?

“I told them there was a depth chart coming out (Monday) based off of their performance to this point,” Weis said. “You have to come out with a depth chart sooner or later. (Monday) was the first day for San Diego State.

“The coordinators went over all the personnel packages to let people know what they’re doing, and the position coaches went over with the guys what their roles are too. They are told first generically by me, then more specific by the coordinators, then more specific by the position coaches.”

• Eye on the Aztecs: Weis would have sent someone from the football program to see season-opening opponent San Diego State play this weekend at Cal Poly.

“We can’t go to the game,” Weis said. “I did ask. No one from the athletic department can go.

“We’ll use Sunday and we’ll knock out that tape on that game. Cal Poly’s offense is a Wishbonish offense. But on offense, defense and special teams, it will give us an opportunity to get their personnel up to date.”

• Saturday night’s all right: Charlie Weis isn’t making any plans for his last free Saturday before the start of the 2008 college football season.

“Whatever my wife tells me to do...and that is an honest answer,” Weis laughed.

Mississippi State NEWS


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