Offensive line talk

University of South Florida offensive line coach Mike Simmonds prepares a young, injured line for the Green and Gold game Saturday at 7 p.m. at Raymond James Stadium.

Simmonds was hired in January 2007 after one season with the Bulls as a graduate assistant. Under his coaching in 2008, USF led the Big East in total offense and ranked second in scoring offense.

Simmonds talks about freshman Sampson Genus and the line’s most important areas.

The Oracle:
How has spring ball gone for the offensive line?
Mike Simmonds: Well, we’re young. We had four seniors up front last year. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, when you’re coaching offensive linemen. The way they get better is to get into games. Right now, we’re trying to get them to concentrate on their fundamentals and techniques and try to get better every day.

O: There have been a lot of injuries on the line. What’s your concern level about that?
MS: That’s part of the game all the way around, so, what you have to do is do your job in training, do your job in getting treatment, and every day you get out there and every time you get a chance to get in your stance, try to get better.

O: Who are some of the guys who have impressed you the most this spring?
MS: (Having) a young offensive line, those guys are getting a little better, but the thing is you have to learn how to work on a championship level. That’s what our goal is — to win championships here.

Every time you get in your stance you have to get better. So I think everybody is showing improvement, because that’s naturally going to come if you give the effort and concentrate on your techniques and your fundamentals.

O: How much of an opportunity is there for a recruit to come in and make an impact?
MS: Well, it’s difficult for any freshman to come in and make an impact right away. Some players come in more ready than others, and over the past few years we’ve shown that if you are ready to play as a freshman then you’ll play.

It’s up to the individual to come in and show they’re on that level to play major college football out of the blocks. It’s a rare instance when that does happen, but there have been instances where we have played guys as freshmen. It’s difficult to do.

Sampson Genus has made the switch over to offense. How has he done?
MS: It helped Sampson Genus being on the defensive line last year. He was a freshman offensive lineman for us. He played over 100 snaps, and last year he started to tackle and now he’s back on offensive. The big thing with Sampson is making sure he is healthy and stays healthy.

How important is it to have strength at the center position?
It all starts with the center, because when you have shotgun spread offense it comes down to getting the ball back to the quarterback and everything relies on the center. They make the line calls a lot of times, so that’s a crucial position in any offensive.