A senior tight end that is moved to offensive tackle for spring practice, Cody Booth said the biggest thing he’s focused on amid his transition is eating.
“Keep eating and keep learning,” Booth said. “That’s the only thing I can do, is to try and get better.”
Booth is being tried at tackle in an attempt to bolster an inexperienced offensive line that is hampered with injury. Of the returning members of the offensive line who had significant playing time in 2012, two of them are seniors and a third – graduate student Sean Boyle – has a chance of not playing this year after complications from multiple shoulder surgeries.
Seniors Jeff Whittingham and Scott Roorda return as starting left and right guards, respectively. Sophomore Zach Hooks started in all 11 games last year at left tackle, and his classmate, Kyle Friend, played in 11 games at guard and center.
Other than that, the Owls have 11 offensive linemen competing for a spot, none of whom have started a game and most of whom have never received game time at all. Booth, with 15 career starts at tight end, is being thrown into the mix in the hopes of adding stability to the inexperienced bunch.
Coach Matt Rhule said he made the move partly to benefit the team, but also in looking out for Booth’s future. Rhule said the switch to the offensive line was an inevitable one for Booth, who has 19 receptions in three years, but was mostly used as a blocking tight end.[blockquote who=”Cody Booth” what=”senior tackle”]I’m open to opportunities. I see this as another opportunity, and I’m going to attack it.[/blockquote]
Rhule compared Booth’s track to that of former Owl Steve Maneri, who played tight end at Temple but was drafted into the NFL as an offensive lineman. Booth said Rhule told him he could be a next-level lineman if he works hard enough at it.
“When coach said it, I was a little shocked,” Booth said. “But I’m open to opportunities. I see this as another opportunity, and I’m going to attack it.”
Booth said he’s been working on understanding the system of the offensive line since spring practice started on March 22. Booth said the run-block system is essentially the same, but he is adapting to the nuances of pass blocking, like one-on-ones with a defensive end on the edge.
However, the biggest concern that Booth and Rhule have with his switch to the offensive line is his weight. Booth came into spring listed at 255 pounds, about 50 pounds less than Temple’s average offensive lineman. Rhule said he would like to get him around 300 pounds by the end of August.
“It’ll get worse before it gets better for him,” Rhule said. “I think he’ll buy into, by August, being at 295-300 pounds. Last year we played with Zach Hooks in the Big East at 270 pounds. Cody’s already that big right now. What we need is five tough, strong, physical offensive linemen. We’ll give Cody a shot. If he can’t get the weight put on, he’ll go back to being a 280-pound tight end.”
Rhule said Hooks is now closer to 285 pounds, and has set a 300-pound goal for him by the start of the season, as well.
“Zach’s very talented. He’s starting to put on the weight,” Rhule said. “We’re going to get back to having a big, strong offensive line and I think Zach is buying into it now.”
Booth said adding weight has been the most difficult part of the process, but he’s been guided by offensive line coach Allen Mogridge, who also switched from tight end to offensive lineman in college.
“It’s been pretty tough,” Booth said. “As far as eating goes, a lot of discomfort. A lot of calories going in. But as far as football goes, I get a lot of support from the team and my coaches. I use [Mogridge] as a role model.”
Even if Booth is able to put on weight and learn the system, it’s unclear if he’ll receive significant playing time next season. He said he’s been practicing with Friend, Roorda and Hooks, in addition to redshirt freshman Brendan McGowan and senior Evan Regas.
Regardless of Booth’s status, the biggest question with the offensive line heading into next season is Boyle. Boyle started the first seven games of 2012 before injuring his left shoulder. He missed the previous two seasons with injuries to his right shoulder.
Rhule said Boyle will be out all camp due to complications with his left shoulder, and the decision for him to play this season will be left to Boyle.
“We love Sean. He’s done everything for the program,” Rhule said. “We’re going to work with him. If he wants to be here, we’d love to have him.
Joey Cranney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @joey_cranney.