Monday, July 30
UGOH IN THE LINEUP
By John Oehser - Colts.com
Second-Round Selection Works in Starting Lineup at Left Tackle
TERRE HAUTE, Ind. - Tony Ugoh knew what was coming. Tony Dungy made sure of it Sunday afternoon, when he told Ugoh – the Colts' second-round selection in last April’s NFL Draft – what the team’s early plans were regarding the offensive left tackle position recently vacated by Tarik Glenn.
Glenn, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, retired last week, making the starting left tackle one of the primary issues entering 2007 Training Camp.
Would it be Ugoh?
Or Jake Scott?
Or Charlie Johnson?
Or Dan Federkeil?
Dungy, in his sixth season as the Colts’ head coach, and Colts President Bill Polian each said the answer hasn’t necessarily been finalized, but on Monday’s first day of camp, it was Ugoh who lined up at left tackle with the starters.
“The first day went really well,” Ugoh said Monday moments after the Colts’ first practice of 2007 Training Camp at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.
“Basically, the major thing was just knowing my assignments, and knowing what to do, so I could play fast.”
Asked if he was the guy at the spot, Ugoh nodded and said, “Yeah.”
Asked if he was surprised, he said he wasn’t, because Dungy had briefed him on the situation after the team’s first meeting Sunday afternoon.
“So, I knew what to expect going in,” Ugoh said.
Dungy said it’s premature to pencil in Ugoh as the starter when the Colts open the regular season against New Orleans September 6 in the RCA Dome.
“That’s what training camp is all about,” Dungy said. “We can say it’s Peyton (Manning’s) job to lose (at quarterback), or it’s Marvin (Harrison’s) job to lose (at wide receiver). We’ll have 22 guys at the end of camp who will start, and we’ll have 53 guys on the team.
“We’ve got a lot of guys who can play over there, a lot of guys who can play corner, a lot of guys who can play linebacker. We don’t really know.”
The Colts drafted Ugoh this past April with the idea he eventually would be the starter at left tackle, trading their 2008 first-round selection to the San Francisco 49ers for the rights to obtain him with the 10th selection of the second round.
The plan at the time was that Glenn, the starter at left tackle the past nine seasons – every season of Manning’s career – would remain in the position for at least another year.
On the Tuesday before camp, Glenn finalized his unexpected retirement, and last week, Colts offensive line coach Howard Mudd, Dungy and Polian all said several scenarios would be considered at the position.
One was Ugoh. Another was moving Charlie Johnson, the backup left and right tackle last season, to left tackle. Another was moving Jake Scott, the starting right guard, to left tackle. Another still was trying second-year veteran Dan Federkeil at the position.
On Monday, Ugoh worked throughout the morning practice alongside the Colts’ other starting linemen: left guard Ryan Lilja, two-time Pro Bowl center Jeff Saturday, Scott and right tackle Ryan Diem.
“We drafted him to play that position and we think he’ll be OK,” Polian said of Ugoh. “Charlie will get some work there. Dan Federkeil will get some work there. We’ll arrive at the end of the preseason and we’ll have the best five out there. I’m certain of that, so that’s where we’ll go."
Said Colts center Jeff Saturday, “If one of us were to miss a game, we always talk about that the guys behind us are good enough to step up and play as well as all the guys who are starting.
“That’s what we believe. That’s our philosophy and we’ve got to stick to it.”
Manning, who has played only six career games without Glenn at left tackle, reiterated Monday something he said Sunday – that he has faith in Mudd, a 34-year NFL veteran.
“I know he’ll put the best guy out there,” Manning said. “This is where it’s nice to have a veteran offensive line around whoever the new guy might be – whether it’s Jeff Saturday or Ryan Diem or Dallas Clark at tight end – guys who can help the new guy along.”
Because the left tackle is often facing the opponents’ best pass rusher, many teams use tight ends or running backs to help the left tackle in some passing situations. Glenn rarely required such help, and Manning said the hope is that whoever plays left tackle this season won’t, either.
“You certainly hope it doesn’t hinder what you’re used to doing offensively,” Manning said. “Dallas Clark is a tight end. Dallas is here to block on running plays, but in the passing game, we need him out on patterns. That is the goal, where hopefully it doesn’t slow us down by any means, where we can call the regular plays and release five guys into the pattern, whether it’s Dallas or (tight end Ben) Utecht – whoever that may be.
“Today was the first day. I know Howard is committed to putting the five best guys out there. He’s done that year in, year out since he’s been here with the Colts and you trust he’ll do it again this year.”
Manning, who said he wouldn’t evaluate Ugoh until he saw film of practice, said he doesn’t anticipate spending much time worrying about the situation – on the field or off.
“There’s too much going on out there, reading defenses, trying to figure out what they’re doing, the open guys to throw it to,” Manning said. “Since I’ve been there, in nine years, Howard Mudd has been the offensive line coach and Tom Moore as the offensive coordinator has preached protection. I feel good about the way the protection is going to be.”
Manning, Ugoh said, has helped him extensively in the off-season, inviting him to his house on a few occasions.
“We’ve already started that bonding phase,” Ugoh said.
The preparation process, Ugoh said, has gone well, with difficulties in expected areas. He said he feels he is learning, and improving, but that he still has much on which to improve.
“I’m pretty pleased,” Ugoh said. “My main concentration is getting the timing down today for the most part. I did pretty well with that. Basically, my mindset coming into it was to get ready as soon as possible. My main concentration now is learning the system and getting the system down so I can play to the best of my abilities. The guys really helped me out with things I didn’t know. Coming into it, I’ve been learning the no-huddle calls and stuff, so that really helped me try to put the numbers with the calls.
“It’s a lot more complex than what I did in college, having the audibles and the no-huddles.”
Said Dungy, “I think we’re doing to be fine. Obviously, we’re going to miss Tarik. He played at a Pro Bowl for the last five years here, but someone else will meet the challenge.”