Editor's note: This is the fifth and final part of a weeklong series looking at five players to watch in spring practice, which begins Feb. 28 for Texas A&M.
There have been several reasons for Texas A&M’s early success in the SEC. Many point to the Aggies’ history-making quarterback, Johnny Manziel, the coveted head coach, Kevin Sumlin, or myriad other factors.
But considering that college football’s premier conference has long been known as a line-of-scrimmage league, there’s no denying that the Aggies’ offensive line the last two seasons has been as meaningful to their success as perhaps any other group.
In the 2013 NFL draft, the Aggies produced the No. 2 overall pick in tackle Luke Joeckel and in the upcoming 2014 NFL draft, offensive tackle Jake Matthews appears to be a surefire top-10 and perhaps even top-five selection.
The next tackle who could be in line for lofty draft status is one who bypassed the chance to be chosen this year -- Cedric Ogbuehi.
Though he was recruited to Texas A&M as a tackle, the 6-foot-5, 300-pound Ogbuehi spent his first two seasons in Aggieland playing guard. In 2013, after Joeckel moved on and Matthews shifted to left tackle, Ogbuehi kicked out to right tackle. After a successful junior season at the position, he had the chance to enter the draft and said he received a first-round grade from the NFL draft advisory board but chose to return to College Station for his senior season.
This fall, Ogbuehi has a chance to follow Matthews’ plan, switching from right tackle to left, making him one of the most pivotal players to watch during Texas A&M’s spring practice.
Ogbuehi knows how to play tackle but the challenge is switching from right to left. While the techniques are similar, the adjustment in footwork is perhaps the biggest challenge.
When Matthews went through the switch last year, it took a lot of work to adapt. Texas A&M offensive line coach B.J. Anderson described last season the challenges Matthews faced upon making the switch, which provides insight into the challenge Ogbuehi faces.
“When you play guard on one side of the ball and you bump out to tackle [on the same side], your stagger is still the same. It's a different set, but your left foot is still your base foot and your right foot is still your kick foot,” Anderson said. “Now Jake had to go over and learn a new stagger. It's just a comfort deal. It's like anything else: after a couple thousands reps at it, it starts to become comfortable.”
Considering Ogbuehi’s athleticism, which is good for the position, it stands to reason that he’ll be able to adapt. It simply will take time and work to get it right.
If the transition is smooth, it will pay big dividends for the A&M offense. The Aggies return four starters on the offensive line: Ogbuehi, guards Jarvis Harrison and Germain Ifedi and center Mike Matthews. Look for junior college transfers Avery Gennesy and Jermaine Eluemunor to battle for Ogbuehi’s right tackle position in the spring.
But with that many returning starters, the experience across the line should help what will be a young offense in other areas, particularly at quarterback and receiver.
The Aggies have had offensive line success in recent years and if Ogbuehi’s move to the left tackle succeeds, this could be another good year up front for Texas A&M.