Monday, December 28, 2009
Arizona's O-line not afraid of Suh
By ESPN.com staff
He may have grown up quick and grown up mean, but Arizona's offensive line is eager to challenge this boy named Suh.
Oh, the Wildcats have heard all the talk. Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska's 6-foot-4, 300-pounds defensive tackle, is unstoppable. He was a Heisman Trophy finalist, the AP Player of the Year and he may be the No. 1 pick in this spring's NFL draft. Heck, against Texas in the Big 12 title game, he piled up 4.5 sacks, and the Longhorns are only playing for the national title.
Yes, they've heard it all and seen it all on film. Yes, Suh is very good. But if the Wildcats are scared, they are keeping it to themselves as they prepare for a date with Suh and the Cornhuskers in the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl on Wednesday.
"We're not intimidated at all," center Colin Baxter said. "We respect what he can do. We know we have to be on top of our game. But I don't think they've really seen an offensive line like us."
Baxter was more colorful in an interview with the Arizona Daily Star, apparently showing some signs of a new syndrome we'll call "Suh Questions Exhaustion."
"He's not some kind of Superman. He's a good player," Baxter told the Star. "The media talks it up a lot. You see the guy on 'SportsCenter' and some people get the idea that he's God or something. That he's Jesus as a football player, that he's just going to walk past the offensive line. He's a good player, and you have to respect that."
Suh is a little bit better than good. He's a spectacular athlete for a 300 pounder. He piled up 19.5 tackles for a loss and 12 sacks despite near-constant double teams.
"Any time guys use bad technique or get out of position he makes them pay for it," Baxter said.
Baxter hastens to add that the Cornhuskers other tackle, Jared Crick, "is no slouch." Crick had 12.5 tackles for a loss.
"He's really good too," Baxter said. "You can't only focus on Suh. Their defensive ends are good too. It's really a whole defensive unit."
That makes sense. One man doesn't make a defense, particularly one that ranks second in the nation in scoring defense (11.23 ppg) and ninth in total defense (284.5 yards per game).
But Suh is where everything starts. He commands extra attention, which frees up others, including Crick. It's nearly impossible to run between the tackles against the Cornhuskers, and few quarterbacks have found things safe and secure inside the pocket -- see a wide-eyed Colt McCoy in the Big 12 title game.
The Wildcats ran the ball fairly well this year (167 yards per game) and will benefit from the return of starting tailback Nic Grigsby, who's missed much of the year with a shoulder sprain. But their forte is the quick passing game with quarterback Nick Foles. The Wildcats only gave up 11 sacks in large part because of Foles' quick release.
Coach Mike Stoops noted that the Wildcats screen game will be important and in many ways could substitute for a ball-control running attack because Foles completes 66 percent of his passes.
Still, Suh isn't a guy who's easy to scheme around.
"He's very disruptive. He's very smart. He's a very complete player," Stoops said. "He's all over the place. That tells me he's very instinctive and smart and can read things very quickly."
Sort of like he's superhuman!
Perhaps that sort of talk will be more motivation for Baxter and the Wildcats O-line.