By Rick Teverbaugh
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
One of the more interesting developments from Tuesday night’s practice was a shifting of positions along the offensive line.
Rookie Anthony Castonzo and second-year player Joe Reitz were to the left of center Jeff Saturday, while Jeff Linkenbach was at right tackle with Ryan Diem at right guard.
The biggest shock was Diem’s move from tackle to guard — a position he hasn’t played in nine years.
“It’s something we do at this time of year particularly because oftentimes you have to go into ball games with seven offensive linemen,” head coach Jim Caldwell said of the move. “Someone has to be a pretty versatile guy and handle a number of different positions. (Diem) has played there (guard) before so this week we thought we would get him some work there.”
For Diem, there was an adjustment period.
“I had to knock some mental rust off,” he said. “(Offensive line coach) Pete (Metzelaars) said we were going to try some different combinations to see what works. I think I should be pretty comfortable soon.”
That alignment puts a lot of pressure on Castonzo and Reitz, who would be guarding the blind side of any right-handed quarterback, such as Peyton Manning.
“Every day I think I get a little bit better,” Castonzo said. “Things are starting to slow down for me a little bit. I need to get to the point where I don’t need to think and just react. It felt good to work with the No. 1s (on Tuesday). You have to have perfect technique on every play. You have to focus on what you’re doing on the play as well as your technique. If you lose focus on either one of those two aspects it’s not going to work out for you basically.”
Caldwell assessed the rookie’s progression. “He’s learned, I think, extremely well,” he said. “He’s got a good fell for what we’re doing. He hasn’t arrived yet, obviously. He’s got a long way to go, but he’s making good progress. You can see he’s a strong guy who is very athletic and smart and tough.”
From Jeff Saturday’s perspective, the change had a distinct physical impact. Castonzo and Reitz are both listed as 6-foot-7. Diem and Linkenback are both 6-foot-6.
“The line has grown,” Saturday said. “What happened? Where did all the trees come from?”
But he has no doubt about Diem making the shift.
“Ryan is one of the best no matter whether he’s playing guard or tackle,” Saturday said.