If Tyler will allow me to pile on for a moment.
I agree, the offensive line should be improved in 2012. As much as I'll miss the guys we lost, Coach Friend's unit will be better equipped to succeed this season. As TD pointed out, the protection was slim and the running lanes were next to nil last season. And not all of that is the offensive line's fault. We had a fullback position that was under-utilized and a tight end position that wasn't able to contribute much blocking wise.
Bruce Figgins is one of my favorites to wear the red and black. I was thrilled to learn last year that he would be moving to fullback because it would allow him to be on the field with Orson, Aron or both and would put a good set of hands out of the backfield. However the result, was Figgins only caught 7 passes for 96 yards and 1 touchdown. What's more is he never carried the ball. Never. His counterpart Zander only carried it twice.
I listened to Richt's reasoning on this (previously unforeseen) development numerous times via the call-in show. Historically, Figgins had never taken a handoff. They weren't planning to (ever) allow him to carry the football. This narrows your offensive weapons and minimizes your choices. Even if it's only somewhat minimized, it still allows the defense to eliminate an option out of the backfield with zero risk of getting burned.
The tight end position did the same thing, albeit from a different direction. Aron White and Orson Charles were terrific targets for Murray. They combined for 54 catches, 675 yards and 9 touchdowns. Of course, Orson did most of the heavy lifting with those stats, but White was a frequent target in the red zone with nearly half of those touchdowns.
The problem is blocking. With all the speed and elusiveness we had at the TE position last season, we didn't have a competent blocker at the position. This, combined with the stripped down version of the fullback position, severely handicapped our protection and blocking schemes.
Enter Artie Lynch and Quayvon Hicks. Lynch has the size of a bonus offensive tackle (6-5, 270+). Hicks dwarfs our current options at fullback (let's face it, Samuel is not a fullback) and has experience taking handoffs. If he can catch up quick this summer he should be starting sooner rather than later. And Lynch, if he can sit in a zone and catch seam route in addition to his blocking duties, we're two steps ahead of where we were last season. Both in terms of protection and options within the playbook.
Of course there are things to iron out along the offensive line, much that only experience and starts can bring along. But I'll be watching Hicks' development closely this August. And come September 1st, I'll be watching the number of times Bobo and Murray call Lynch's number on passing downs as closely as anything else. If those two offensive components can come together, we'll no longer be bringing switchblades to gunfights.
statistics taken from cfbstats.com