(We're going to miss this hoss.)
The Cats offensive line was a big part of the reason for Tuitama's success last season. He was able to sit in the pocket and pick apart secondaries with time to spare in most cases. Although the Cats gave up 27 sacks in 2008 (third most in the conference), they were able to protect Tuitiama in order to let him have one of the most productive passing seasons in school history and Nic Grigsby rushed for 1,153 yards. The Cats lose two of their workhorses on the offensive line, Eben Britton and Joe Longacre. Both of these guys started all 13 games last season and it will be tough to replace them. Joe Tretheway who started 7 games last year is also gone.
Let's take a look at how the Cats are going to line up this year.
Look for the Cats to have Colin Baxter at center. Baxter stepped in last year after a knee injury to starter Blake Kerley. Baxter will be a huge anchor on the offensive line and is on the 2009 Remington Trophy Watch List. Baxter will be backed up this year by senior Herman Hall. Hall played in four games in 2008 and would be a capable center if needed to be called on.
(Baxter will hold down the line at center this year)
The Cats will have Jack Julsing at left tackle this season. Julsing is a juco transfer coming from College of the Desert. He enrolled in January and has been getting accustomed to the offense since then. He emerged as the stronger player in spring drills and jumped Phillip Garcia on the depth chart. Garcia injured his knee last year in spring drills and was forced to redshirt 2008. Although Julsing will start out on top in August, don't be surprised if this is one of the biggest battles of the preseason drills.
(Julsing will hold down the left tackle spot)
Mike Diaz, former juco transfer, will hold down the line at left guard. Last year, Diaz was tabbed as a backup but when Blake Kerley went down, Colin Baxter moved from left guard to center, opening up the position for Diaz to fill. He did quite a job. Diaz ended up opening up huge holes for Grigsby throughout the year and started the final 9 games of the year. Diaz will be backed up by Conan Amituanai, who will be another "backup" on the Arizona line with enough skill to be able to step in and play with the first team in no time. Consider Conan to be the Diaz of 2009.
(Diaz will be pushed by Amituanai for playing time)
Adam Grant will start the season at right tackle for the Wildcats this spring. This guy is 6'6" tall and 325 lbs. He will be stepping in and filling big shoes with the departure of Eben Britton. Grant has had considerable experience in his years at Arizona and will look to finish off his senior year with a strong, healthy showing in 2009. Grant started the first five games of 2008, only to be sidelined with a hand injury and only filling in the rest of the season. Trace Biskin, resdhirt freshman, will backup Grant this season and hopefully get his feet wet for the 2010 season. Also, look for Zink to rotate in some as they Cats brought in the juco transfer for a reason. He is a monster and has developed significant strength in his 2 years at Shasta College. Oh yeah, he's 6'7" and weighs 295 lbs.
Vaughn Dotsy will round out Cats at right guard this year. Dotsy is a true sophomore who played in at right guard and Adam Grant at right tackle. The big man played only spot duty last year in four games, however; this should be the experience he needs to lock up the role this season. Dotsy will be backed up by Jovon Hayes who saw action in two games last year (Cal and WSU). Look for Dotsy to wrap this one up well be fore September.
(Dotsy with the experience should lock it down)
The Cats recruited four OL this year including Jake Baratz, Chris Putton, Jack Jusling (juco transfer), and Shane Zink (juco transfer). Look for Jusling to start this season and for Zink to be used to rotate in immediately in the event of an injury. Zink is listed third on the depth chart for the Cats at right tackle, but was brought in to help out immediately and should see some time early and often.
(Baratz is going to be a monster)