Few times does a unit find itself with such overwhelming pressure despite so many returning members that were part of a glowingly successful football season. That's unfortunately how the cookie crumbled for the Arizona Wildcats offensive line.
Center Kyle Quinn is off playing for the Arizona Cardinals, and the loss of his leadership is just the beginning of what Rich Rodriguez will have to deal with in 2013.
Kyle Quinn (center), Trace Biskin, Shane Zink, Addison Bachman
Fabbians Ebbele (tackle), Mickey Baucus (tackle), Chris Putton (guard), Cayman Bundage (guard), Trent Spurgeon (guard), Jacob Arzouman (guard)
Steven Gurrola (center)
Rodriguez couldn't have been more unhappy with how things went for the offense at Fort Huachuca. And in a pretty obvious way, the offensive line's ensuing future has much to do with how the quarterback and running back positions have changed, or haven't. A lot of Rodriguez's grumbling had to do with blocking issues. And with the quarterback situation unresolved -- it's unlikely to be for a while -- the pressure on the offensive line only grows.
Matt Scott also graduated, and now it's essentially a free-for-all between B.J. Denker, Jesse Scroggins and Nick Isham. Last year, there was enough evidence to say Denker's arm won't test opponents. Scroggins has been dealing with concussion problems.
If indeed the offense becomes one-dimensional and featuring Ka'Deem Carey, Ka'Deem Carey and Ka'Deem Carey, Arizona will be in trouble.
Chris Putton and Cayman Bundage return at the guard spots, while Fabbians Ebbele and Mickey Baucus return as the two most-experienced members at the tackle positions. Rodriguez told the Arizona Daily Star that there's hardly a first team and second team (as in, they get the same amount of reps). Last year, Rodriguez proved that by running a deep group of players in and out on the offensive line.
After all, how are 300-pound men going to play every snap at RichRod's pace?
Trent Spurgeon has been around the block while Carter Wood and Jacob Arzouman, both sophomores, could find themselves in a two-deep group of rotation linemen. Senior Eric Bender-Ramsay, the biggest lineman on the roster listed at 331-pounds, will also likely see the field.
At center, it appears that Glendale Community College transfer Steven Gurrola has the ability to take Quinn's place. But Putton, who has started nine games the last two years, might also have a grab at snapping to insert-a-quarterback's-name-here.
On paper, the list of familiar names makes 2013 promising. Carey wouldn't have bolted for an NCAA-leading 1,929 yards last season had it not been for a good majority of returning Wildcats on the line. Quinn, on paper, can be replaced, too.
But even if Ebbele, Putton and Baucus fill the leadership void, there's still the issue of opposing defenses knowing exactly what's coming.
Rodriguez's disappointment during the Ft. Huachuca practices might be a hint. He knows the offensive line needs some pushing rather than coddling after last season's success. If they don't improve in a big way, Carey himself won't be enough to make Arizona bowl worthy again. And if that is combined with the quarterback situation becoming problematic, the worst-case scenario is pretty ugly -- no matter the talent at receiver and running back.
It won't get any easier. Which is why the offensive line arguably has more pressure than any other unit.