Greg Hansen: UA's offensive line: Five guys you don't know

2011-08-31T00:01:00Z 2012-11-30T13:48:07Z Greg Hansen: UA's offensive line: Five guys you don't knowGreg Hansen Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
August 31, 2011 12:01 am  • 

No one will write a poem and refer to them as the Five Horsemen of Bear Down Field. They will not be known as the Five Blocks of Granite. And except for their size, they won't turn heads unless they walk together into Five Guys Burgers and Fries.

They are the five most unknown starting offensive linemen since Arizona was absorbed by the Pac-10 in 1978.

How unknown? Guard Trace Biskin, No. 72, played on a California high school football team that sent receivers Chris Owusu to Stanford, Chris Potter to Boise State, and linemen Duke Lemmen to Florida and Michael Ebbitt to Texas A&M.

That's obscurity.

Tackle Fabbians Ebbele, No. 73, should have been a star at Chicago Simeon High School, but 6-foot-6-inch, 350-pound whiz-kid Jordan Diamond also happened to be on that team, elected team captain as a sophomore, a player of such repute that he was offered scholarships by Ohio State, Michigan and LSU when he was 15.

That's being overshadowed.

Center Kyle Quinn, No. 76, was offered scholarships by small-school Idaho State and Sacramento State before being discovered by Arizona; Quinn was then stacked up behind center Colin Baxter, who started a school-record 49 consecutive games.

That's being lost.

Tackle Mickey Baucus, No. 68, arrived in Tucson as the little brother of Wildcat sophomore Jack Baucus. And guard Chris Putton, No. 62, who had contemplated staying in Phoenix and playing for the hometown Sun Devils, mailed ASU his video highlights - and never heard back.

They are the Five Guys You Wouldn't Know Even If They Remodeled Your Living Room.

Arizona is the only team in all of BCS football scheduled to start more than one redshirt freshman offensive lineman (Ebbele and Baucus) in the season opener, and the youngest overall offensive line of the six major conferences.

Phil Steele, whose magazine "College Football Preview 2011" is the bible of all things college football, ranks Arizona's offensive line as the least experienced of all 120 in the FBS.

Quinn has one career start. His four teammates: none.

The good news is that UA coaches believe these Five Unknown Guys have the capacity to be capable Pac-12 players sometime this season and Really Good Players next year.

The not-so-promising news is that, as former UA offensive coordinator Steve Axman famously said 25 years ago "when you're trying to predict how good a team will be, start with the offensive line. If it's not good, your team won't be good, either."

Baucus and Biskin.

Putton and Quinn.

And Fabbians Ebbele.

By 2012 they could be the Five Biggest Men On Campus.

The 1998 Wildcats, the greatest team in UA football history, 12-1, started the same five linemen in all 13 games, 65 for 65 overall. Edwin Mulitalo, Yusuf Scott, Manuia Savea and Steven Grace all played in the NFL. Bruce Wiggins was a three-year starter and second-team All-Pac-10 player.

It was the best offensive line in modern UA history. See how it works? Good OL. Good team.

The Desert Swarm team of 1994 wasn't all defense. Its offensive line returned five starters - Paul Stamer, Pulu Poumele, Hicham El-Mashtoub, Warner Smith, Joe Smigiel - and two more players, Mani Ott and Mu Tagoai, who had started.

Good OL. Good team.

Here's a not-so-promising trend: Since being admitted to the Pac-10 33 years ago, Arizona twice entered a season with just one returning starter on the offensive line.

In 1987, with center Joe Tofflemire back, Arizona went 4-4-3, breaking a string of six winning seasons.

In 1995, with Ott the only returning lineman with starting experience, Arizona went 5-6, effectively ending the Desert Swarm era.

The UA's most ruinous season of the '80s and '90s was traced to almost historic troubles on the offensive line. Dick Tomey's 1991 team was beset by so many injuries on the OL that it ultimately deployed true freshmen Ott, Stamer and Peter Becker, and moved defensive players Smith and El-Mashtoub to the OL.

Arizona finished 4-7, the worst season of the Tomey years.

Now come Five Guys Only Their Mothers Can Recognize.

How quickly they reach maturity, and perhaps celebrity, will determine how far this Arizona football team can go.

Contact Greg Hansen at 573-4362 or ghansen@azstarnet.com

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Pac-12 South football standings

  Conference Overall
Team W L T PCT W L T PCT
UCLA 6 2 0 0.750 9 2 0 0.818
ASU 6 2 0 0.750 9 2 0 0.818
Arizona 6 2 0 0.750 9 2 0 0.818
USC 6 3 0 0.667 7 4 0 0.636
Utah 4 4 0 0.500 7 4 0 0.636
Colorado 0 8 0 0.000 2 9 0 0.182

Pac-12 North football standings

  Conference Overall
Team W L T PCT W L T PCT
Oregon 7 1 0 0.875 10 1 0 0.909
Stanford 4 4 0 0.500 6 5 0 0.545
Cal 3 6 0 0.333 5 6 0 0.455
Oregon State 2 5 0 0.286 5 5 0 0.500
Washington 2 5 0 0.286 6 5 0 0.545
Washington State 2 6 0 0.250 3 8 0 0.273
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