BOWLING GREEN - As any offensive coach will tell you, it's ultimately what's up front that counts.
Midway through the spring football workouts, the offensive line for Bowling Green State University is shrouded in a multitude of what-ifs and maybes and assorted other variables.
The Falcons have no fewer than five players along their front line recovering from knee surgery. Some of these guys have had more X-rays, MRIs and rehab reports right now than games played.
That means there are just seven healthy linemen who are going through spring without contact restrictions, and that does not leave new BG head coach Gregg Brandon and offensive coordinator Greg Studrawa a whole lot of options.
“We are just really thin there,” Brandon said.
The personnel issue has forced Studrawa, himself a former BG offensive lineman, to shuffle the chess pieces just to cover the board. “We've had to bounce kids around just so we can facilitate practice,” Brandon said.
On the mend the Falcons have:
At the moment, Ryan Lucas (6-4, 290 Sr.) and Jesus Yanez (6-3, 295 Sr.) are taking the reps at center, while Robert Haley (6-4, 290 Sr.), Jon Culp (6-6, 275 So.) and Derrick Markray (6-5, 335 Fr.) are getting some work at the tackles. Scott Mruczkowski (6-4, 305 Jr.) started at guard all last season but can play anywhere on the line, while Vardan Mkhitarian (6-3, 290 Sr.) is working at the other guard.
The personnel and their positions are all subject to change scrimmage by scrimmage, Brandon said, and there could be a very different look by August as players get cleared for full contact.
“I know this much right now, Mruczkowski will be one of them in August,” Brandon said. “After that, it's a matter of seeing who bounces back from the injuries. If all of those guys can go, the competition will be fierce, and that is what you want.”
When you factor in the new recruits, the most optimistic outlook would have 17 linemen healthy and ready to play in August. Brandon hopes he has that kind of numbers to work with when camp opens.
“Every kid we're talking about can be ready, because they've done it before,” he said. “They are all in the mix right now. These guys are competing for starting spots, and if we have them all, they'll give us quality depth.”
Such depth is a luxury the Falcons have not had on the offensive line in a long time, Brandon said.