Tape It Up: Losing the Low-Profile MVP

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Losing the Low-Profile MVP

The offensive linemen are the unsung heroes of every football team. They don't get statistics, they're in on every play and most fans only notice them when they do something wrong. But there's no better way to strike panic into a coach than to injure a starting lineman, which would explain the uneasiness suffered this week at Utah and Louisiana Tech.

Utah starting left tackle Jason Boone will miss all of the 2007 season after tearing the ACL in his left knee. The two-year starter took a pass set in Thursday's 3/4-speed blitz pickup drill, planted his foot wrong, and popped the ligament, but it was not known until later in the week exactly how severe the injury was.

A preseason all-conference selection, the 6-foot-4, 300-pound senior redshirted in 2003, exhausting his extra year of eligibility, so the injury has probably put an end to his collegiate career.

"That was awful news," head coach Kyle Whittingham said. "It's a tragedy."

The injury is not just a personal loss for Boone, but a blow to quarterback Brian Johnson and the entire run game, as well. In terms of the passing game, the left tackle position is easily the most important on the offensive line, as most teams put their best pass rusher on the right end to attack right-handed quarterbacks from the blind side. A solid left tackle is a quarterback's best friend, and NFL teams have recognized this relationship monetarily, making left tackles the highest paid players on some squads. Left tackles do not have the luxury of resting on their heels for a single play, as a moment's hesitation is the difference between a complete pass and a bone-crushing hit on the team's signal caller.

Like any lineman, the left tackle is also directly responsible for the success of the run game. If a running back can get a good push up front from his linemen, his job is infinitely simpler and his odds of being successful far better than if he is responsible for opening up his own holes on every play.

Losing Boone is a particularly bad blow for Utah as the Utes were poised to follow the veteran line, which boasted four returning starters, to a strong season, touting that O line as one of the team's major strengths coming into the season. And the ACL tear has got to be giving Johnson nightmares for reasons other than wondering who is going to protect his blind side -- the quarterback suffered the same injury in 2005 and sat out all of last season to let his knee heal.

Replacing a player that would have been a three-year starter at such a critical position with only three weeks' notice is not an ideal situation, so Whittingham is thinking outside of the box (or inside it, as the case may be), moving defensive lineman Zeke Tuinei-Wily to offensive tackle to push junior Corey Seiuli and freshman Walter Watts in competition for the open spot up front.

A similar fate, to a lesser degree, has befallen Louisiana Tech. The Bulldogs have lost starting left guard David Accardo for six to eight weeks after suffering a knee sprain on Thursday. Accardo started all 13 games as a sophomore and was a strong force on the inside, leaving La. Tech very weak at the guard position. The earliest Accardo could possibly be back is Sept. 29, when the Bulldogs take on Fresno State, but in the mean time, the quarterback's time in the pocket and running game's ability to get started will certainly be affected.

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