There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding this year’s Penguins football team and a young offensive line only adds to a long list of question marks.
Last season’s team was an offensive juggernaut averaging just over 400 yards of total offense per game, but with four new starters on the offensive line, the Penguins will have to regroup quickly if they are to repeat last season’s successes.
Offensive Line Coach Carmen Bricillo does not appear worried though. In fact, he remains optimistic about a group that he believes has great potential.
“I’m spoiled in the fact that I have a great unit,” Bricillo said. “We’ve recruited high character kids. They work really hard. To compare it to last year’s line, the quick response would be less experience obviously — they haven’t started as much. But we have the possibility to be the most talented O-line that we’ve ever had here, and that’s a statement because we’ve had some really good ones — guys that have worked hard and had opportunities in the NFL.”
Brock Eisenhuth, a sophomore right guard, is the only returning starter from last year’s team. He and junior Trevor Strickland — who played in all 12 games last year and will be this season’s starter at left tackle — are the two most experienced players on the Penguins’ O-line.
Stephen Page, though, is the only senior starter on the offensive line and is expected to act as a leader to the young group.
“I wouldn’t really necessarily say there’s pressure, but you know it’s definitely a role of mine to be a leader and make sure these young guys are on the right track — make sure they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing at the right time,” Page said.
Page has the tough job of replacing center Chris Elkins, a second-team All-American a season ago. Elkins caught the eye of the Pittsburgh Steelers and was signed as an undrafted free agent. Page indicated that he is up for the task.
“Elkins was a good player here,” Page said. “It’s big shoes to fill, but I’m going to try my best and just do everything I can to replace him. “
Red shirt freshman Dylan Colucci will get the start at left guard, and sophomore Justin Spencer will start at right tackle.
While Coach Bricillo is very confident about the O-line’s future, he knows there is still a lot of work to be done before the season begins.
“With this unit you probably don’t want to single anybody out in particular. I’m pleased with our development. I just got done telling them that we’re nowhere near where we need to be, or what our potential could be, but we are getting better. And that’s our goal — to come out and get better every day — and if we do that, I think we got a chance to be a really good group up front,” Bricillo said. “We’re a young unit but talented and we work hard.”
The Penguins’ newly restructured O-line will make its debut this Saturday, as the team kicks off its season against the University of Illinois, a formidable Bowl Championship Series opponent.