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Stabilized Offensive Line Key To Bearcats Success In The Running Game

The Bearcats have found a player in freshman running back Mike Boone who became 17th player in UC history to rush for 200+ yards in a game. He is the first Bearcat to top the 200 yard barrier since Isaiah Pead did it against Rutgers in 2010. Understandably the freshman has become the center of attention for the Bearcats, but there is another group that has rounded into form just in time to allow Boone to go off.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The root cause of many of the Bearcats offensive inconsistencies this season has been ACOLHG. You don't need to know who ACOLHG is, you just need to know that he is a bitch. No seriously, imagine the worst boss that you have ever had, multiply that by 100 and give that boss the power to injure people for no good reason. That's ACOLHG.

The rash of injuries to beset the Bearcats front has obviously had a negative effect on the cohesion of the offensive line. We are now in week 8 of the Bearcats season, week 10 for everyone else, and nine different offensive linemen have drawn at least one start. In the Bearcats 7 games they have had 6 different starting combinations up front. Given those facts the Bearcats struggles to run the football through September and early October make perfect sense. Continuity matters in college football, and there is no where it matters more than up front.

For the last three weeks the Bearcats have been able to play the same offensive line groups together. With one exception, Ryan Leahy starting at left guard for an injured Kevin Schloemer, the Bearcats starting line has stabilized. WIth Darren Hiller coaching the line you know that the Bearcats aren't just going to be playing 5 offensive linemen for the entire game. Hiller believes in an offensive line rotation, and his commitment to that has gotten us to the point where the Bearcats front is good, even though three of the five opening day starters have missed time this year. That's a testament to Hiller's willingness to play an 8 or 9 man rotation to build that depth.

But just like a rotation in basketball it only works if everyone know's what their role is, and the situations where they are going to get looks and, even more importantly, who they are going to be playing with. Its that last part of it where the Bearcats had issues early in the season. The rotation guys like Tyreek Burwell, Dominic Mainello and even Ryan Leahy were getting the reps they probably expected, but they were getting them next to guys they hadn't logged much time together with in training camp or practice. So they had to work on developing that continuity and communication with new guys.

That work is starting to pay major dividends for the Bearcats running game. Against SMU and especially South Florida the Bearcats line looked better than it has at any point in the Tuberville era. The key for the Bearcats will be maintaining that production as the schedule toughens down the stretch. Remember that three of the AAC's top 5 run defenses are still on the Bearcats schedule, ECU, Houston and UConn. The Bearcats don't need to run for 250 yards in any of those games to have enough success to win, but they need to run enough to prevent teams from teeing off on Gunner Kiel in the passing game.