August 9, 2010

Andrew Wallace hopes to stay under the radar

There's a belief in football that fans shouldn't know the names of a team's offensive linemen. If they do, it's probably not a good thing: the name is being called too much for penalties or allowing sacks while the big men who get the job done do so in anonymity. And that's perfectly fine with redshirt sophomore Andrew Wallace, who revels in the ability for his 6-5, 305 pound frame to shy away from the spotlight on the football field.

Last year, Wallace did a great job when he was called into action during his first season of eligibility; allowing fans to familiarize themselves with the Charlotte, N.C. native due to some standout play up front. Wallace stepped in for an injured Jake Vermiglio, protecting Russell Wilson's blind side as a starter at left tackle against Gardner-Webb and again versus Maryland. Wallace would see action in every contest, also playing guard, while not allowing a sack in 288 plays.

"[The playing time I received last year] was a big help to me," Wallace said. "Stepping in for Jake when he couldn't play, made me ready for this year. I'll be prepared and I know what [to expect] on the game field so I can work in practice and get better."

With Vermiglio leading the line and back for his final campaign, Wallace expects to settle in at left guard this season. He is a projected starter next to the man he started for twice last year and, despite his youth, will be a leader up front for the Pack. Redshirt sophomore R.J. Mattes started at right guard last year before suffering a season-ending knee injury against Florida State and may not be ready to go when the season kicks off against Western Carolina; which would increase the Pack's dependence on Wallace's protection.

"I'm focusing on guard this year," Wallace said. "Who knows what can happen with injuries and such, I do what Coach tells me to, but I'm focusing on guard right now."

The line is taking a group-oriented approach to the season, according to Wallace. After losing long-time cogs such as Ted Larsen, Julian Williams and Andy Barbee up front, the responsibility to help better a line that allowed 32 sacks last year is a group focus.

"We had great lineman last year," Wallace noted. "It's going to be tough [to replace last year's seniors] but we've got a good group of guys right now.

"We hang out any chance we got, we don't leave each other behind. We stay together and I think it's going to help us out. I think we're going to be good this year."

Part of the team-first mindset that the big men share is helping each other out. Although some may see Vermiglio and Wallace as competitors for the same position, the Pack coaches have let it be known that their plan is to start the five best linemen up front. This allows the chemistry to be at its best and the linemen to help each other despite battling for playing time.

"Jake's been a big help," Wallace said. "He helps me with my footwork. I had lazy footwork last year and I plan on getting better at it so that's what I've been working on all camp.

"He's also a leader; he'll pick us up when we're down and we all try to pick each other up. R.J. is a hard worker, I'm ready for him to be back and then things will be going good."

Wallace estimates that he gained a little more than ten pounds since last fall. He expects to be better this year and has let it be known that he expects the same from his teammates in 2010.

"We have a good group of guys, from our receivers to our quarterbacks," Wallace said. "Even Mike Glennon, our backup [quarterback] can step in when he needs to. Our offensive line is working hard to get better and we got a good pair of running backs.

"I expect us to do what we did last year, but better."

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