The intrigue surrounding the offensive line this spring will be centered around which of the redshirt freshman can make a push up the depth chart with the graduation of Trey Clark as well as Ucambre Williams and Shaun Artz sitting out of spring drills recovering from injuries.
Departing center Trey Clark started every game of his career while at the University of South Alabama. Needless to say there are big shoes to fill. Senior Matt Calcagnini was the back-up center in 2012 and he’ll be in the mix looking to replace Clark. Before coming to South Alabama, Calcagnini was named First Team All-Northern Athletics Conference as a true freshman playing for Concordia University in Wisconsin (NCAA Div III). Redshirt freshman Joe Scelfo is expected to make a run at the starting job at the pivot. He’s intelligent and mean, which is a nice combination to have as a center. The smart money is on Scelfo to be South Alabama’s starting center at some point in his career. The question is - can he do it now? There has been talk of moving redshirt junior Ucambre Williams in from OT to center, but he’ll miss spring drills. Redshirt sophomore James Elliott could work at center, but he’s expected to figure heavily in the mix at one of the OG spots.+
Redshirt junior Melvin Meggs took over the starting ROG spot 1 game into his freshman year and he’s been our best OL since, making 32 starts over that period with 13 of those coming last season at ROT. Now it’s time for him to become dominating. Ucambre Williams missed the 2011 season and was limited last spring, but came on strong in the fall to lay claim to the starting job at LOT. He started 5 games in 2012 before being injured and in those 5 starts he was twice named OL of the game by the South Alabama coaching staff. After Ucambre Williams’ injury, redshirt sophomore Chris May eventually earned the starting job at LT. He continued to improve as the season wore on and in his seven starts, he was named OL of the game by the South Alabama coaching staff three times. Two redshirt freshman that could factor in at OT are Clay Machen and Steven Foster. Machen is a gifted athlete who has the physical traits you would look for in an OT. He needs to get stronger and more physical. Foster is a more physical player but is probably best suited for OG. His ability to pass block might make him an option at OT, and a luxury at OG.
Shaun Artz has battled shoulder issues since he arrived on campus, but they haven’t kept the redshirt junior from developing into a very solid lineman who started 11 games in 2011. He’ll sit out spring practice this go-around, but it would take a yeoman’s effort from one of the other OG to steal his starting job. Redshirt junior Drew Dearman began the year as the starter at LOG and started 6 games, before departing senior Tremain Smith was able to wrestle the job away from him. Dearman is a physical lineman who plays with a ton of effort. Kentucky transfer James Elliott got a bit of a late start on the season waiting on the NCAA to rule on his eligibility. But this will be his second spring on campus, he’s been through a full season and he will have a good opportunity to lay claim to a OG spot this spring. Redshirt freshman Daniel Aust was the first freshman mentioned last fall as a guy who was impressing with his play. He was even mentioned as a guy who might not be able to redshirt when the OL ran into some depth issues as the season wore on. Luckily Aust was indeed able to redshirt in 2012 and now he enters spring drills with a real opportunity to climb up the depth charts. Aust has nice feet and does a good job at the second level. Steve McKenzie is the last member of the 2012 offensive line signing that was able to redshirt. At 6’1,320, he’s a road grader of an OG.
Redshirt sophomore DaMon Husband has excellent feet for an OG, not to mention a 6’1,340er, but weight and conditioning have been an issue for Husband since arriving on campus. Much the same can be said for 6’6,325 Alabama transfer Darius McKellar.
With the return of Melvin Meggs, Shawn Artz, Ucambre Williams, Chris May and Drew Dearman along with players like James Elliott and five redshirt freshman being added to the mix, the outlook for the OL is as good as it’s ever been. Not only will the OL be an experienced group heading into 2013, there is a real possibility none of them will be seniors.