Five leaders, one line.TCU assistant head football and offensive line coach Eddie Williamson said all five members of his starting offensive line lead in different ways.
Seniors left tackle Michael Toudouze and left guard Shane Sims lead by example, while the other three members of the line, seniors center Stephen Culp, right guard Ben Angeley and junior Herbert Taylor provide vocal leadership for the five Frogs in the trenches.
Some members of the senior-laden line are in their fifth season together on the squad, and all of the linemen have played together for at least three years, Culp said.
“Being together this long, coming in together, it seems like we just know what each other’s doing at all times,” Culp said. “It helps a lot — better communication.”
Williamson said familiarity with teammates is beneficial for any unit on the football field, but in the offensive line, it is especially important to have players who know each other.
“You can have four guys block great and one guy not, and it looks like all five of them are not playing well,” Williamson said. “Anytime that they can work together for that length of time, they come to understand each other – they know the system. That’s as important as anything.”
Williamson said the line has been healthy this summer, aside from the normal bumps and bruises that go along with two-a-day practices.
Toudouze credited the offensive linemen’s work ethic in the offseason to their ability to stay healthy leading up to Saturday’s opener at Oklahoma.
Players customarily take two weeks off during the summer, but this year’s linemen decided they would spend their time off in the weight room, Toudouze said.
“The whole offensive line in there, we’re working together, lifting and running around by ourselves, without the coaches,” Toudouze said. “Just doing the extra stuff.”
The line’s junior member, Taylor, has had the most starting experience on the line.
He said Williamson ensures the team’s offseason work habits carry over to practice, and that most people would not be able to meet the physical standards the coach demands.
“He pushes the limit,” Taylor said. “I think all of us guys told him that we want him to push us to the limit, and that’s what he does. He comes out here every day, and he gets on us every day about it.”
Culp, placed on the preseason watch list for the Rimington Award, given to the nation’s top center, missed much of last year’s losing season with a knee injury. He said maintaining the health of the line will be key to the success of the Frog offense.
“I had to sit on the sidelines and watch everything go on in our tough season, but this year, with all of us healthy, we’re hoping to have a great season,” Culp said.
Williamson said he would like to have 10 linemen game ready, but right now, TCU only has seven linemen that he knows are solid.
“It’s important that we have everybody ready to go, because I think one of the question marks is our depth this year, and how far we can reach down to get other guys to play,” he said.
Williamson said his line expects great success this season, but to have success, all linemen will have to execute their responsibilities.
“We want to play tough, aggressive football, but we want to play smart, intelligent football at the same time,” Williamson said. “Play as hard as we can from the start of the snap till the whistle blows.”
None of the linemen are putting too much emphasis on the Oklahoma game, saying it is only one game in a long season.
“Every defense we play is going to have big guys. The Mountain West (Conference) – their defensive linemen are bigger than (Oklahoma’s),” Culp said. “We just keep doing what we’ve always done.