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September 22, 2009Sign-up for InsideHilltopperSports.com Wireless Text Alerts sent right to your cell phone!
The offensive line just got a lot taller.
At 6-foot-8, freshman Ed Hazelett was already technically at the end of the line, at tight end. Today, he officially made the switch to left tackle and to a different jersey number, 60.
Though it was a struggle at times at his new position, Hazelett said he's already taking to it, in the best interests of the team.
"I'm pretty cool with it,"? he said. "I'm just trying to find any way to get on the field. Any way to help my Hilltoppers, I'm willing to do anything."
WKU has battled injuries since the opening of fall camp on the offensive line. Senior Lloyd Pressley and redshirt freshman Luke Stansfield have already been lost for the season and injuries have beset other linemen, including juniors Derrick Elder and Mychal Patterson. Senior center Cody Hughes has also been battling an injury.SEE TODAY'S NOTES.
Coach David Elson said Hazelett's move is a permanent one for now and will help the Toppers regain some strength with another body on the line.
"Preston's banged up and it allows us to really almost, get ten full guys that we can work with and at least practice with,"? Elson said. "(Ed's) got a lot to learn, but we think for him long term after we gave him a legitimate opportunity at tight end. He did some good things, but realistically long term that's where his future is."
But like the rest of the line, Hazelett still needs to work on his technique. Offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Walter Wells said that might be the most important thing to get across right now.
"We're trying to simplify everything as much as we can, but if you simplify it too much, teams get the beat on ya,"? he said. "It's a two-fold system. Then technique is the other part of it. Cody's new at center and he's learning every game and getting better. The other guys are getting better and better and they've just gotta continue to work their technique and stay focused at it. The effort is the thing that's not a problem."
Though the offense has struggled to get much going through three games, Wells said the last thing that needs to be done is abandon the game plan. That includes how the offensive linemen are taught and how they're expected to play.
"The longer you stay with something, the better you're gonna be at it," Wells said. "If you keep changing, then they keep learning. When the adjustments come to that, they've gotta learn the adjustments off that. Maybe sometimes it's boring and not as fancy as you want it to be, but bottom line is sometimes is just doing what you do and doing it well."
Right now, Hazelett is trying to get things done well enough to see the field. Right now, he's still a ways off, but with his size, he might not be that far away from at least reaching backup status.
"Today, there was certain times where I just felt good at doing it,"? he said. "I felt like I'm a natural at it. I've just gotta keep working hard and getting my steps and stuff down. I feel like I can have a future in this."
Elson said he and the rest of the coaching staff believe that Hazelett has the tools to be successful at his new spot.
"He's 274 pounds right now and he looks thin,"? Elson said. "He could be 300 pounds and be a heck of a presence at left tackle for years to come. That's what we've gotta work at getting him to be."
But right now, Hazelett said the biggest thing is getting used to the difference in working with coach Mike Chism and Wells.
Hazelett chose WKU over BCS offers last fall, in part for opportunity to play tight end. Now, he said he'd gladly play wherever he's needed.
"It really doesn't matter to me," he said. "Anything to help the team. I'll play tight end, tackle, guard, it doesn't matter, defensive end, quarterback. I can't throw really, but I can hand the ball off."?
The Toppers aren't asking for him to do it all, just give all he's got be a presence and bring something good to the offensive line.
Check Out InsideHilltopperSports.com's insider's only look at WKU's Tuesday practice, including an injury report.
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