But he’s hoping to change that this season by winning the job manning the line in fall camp.
“I’m hungry,” Hollins said. “I’ve been waiting, but they say patience is a virtue. I’ve just been waiting my time, learning from the older guys.
“We’ve got so many guys in NFL camps that I’d be a fool to say that I should come in and start over these guys. It’s been a journey that I’ve embraced. I’m blessed to be in this position and I’ve enjoyed watching these guys play and learning from them.”
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Hollins is not alone in wanting to avoid any noticeable drop off between this year’s O-line and last season. Easier said than done, of course.
TCU’s offensive line ranked among the best in the country a season ago, leading the Big 12 in fewest sacks allowed at 1.3 per game. That’s why four of them are in NFL camps right now.
Hollins found himself stuck behind the likes of Patrick Morris, who is now with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and Austin Schlottmann, who is with the Denver Broncos.
TCU’s tackles were drafted into the league, as the Rams took left tackle Joseph Noteboom in the third round and the Eagles took right tackle Matt Pryor (who also spent time at right guard) in the sixth round.
“They were great players,” TCU’s co-offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie said. “They were great leaders. They were really good guys, strong character guys in the locker room. So you lose all of that and that carries a lot of weight, just like their performance on the field.
“There’s going to be some new faces, but we feel like they’re talented. It’s just identifying our top five, eight offensive linemen who are going to give us a chance to win.”
Cumbie knows the turnover on the line is significant, but has a sense of relief knowing his younger players learned from the veterans in the film room and on the practice field. Plus, there are holdovers coming back.
Cordel Iwuagwu returns as the starting left guard, and Lucas Niang has starting experience at right tackle.
“We have a lot of work to do, but that’s how it was last year even with the experienced O-line,” Iwuagwu said. “Coach [Chris] Thomsen coming in [his first year], we fixed a whole lot and we moved a lot of pieces around and we came out firing on all cylinders. I feel like we’ll do the same thing with this new group.”
Expect Iwuagwu to develop into one of the leaders, particularly on the offensive line. He has the most starting experience and was among a handful of players chosen to speak at the school’s media day earlier this month.
“Coach Thomsen and coach Cumbie have talked to me about being more vocal for my guys,” Iwuagwu said. “They just want me to be more vocal to the offense cause the O-line knows I’ve got their back no matter what. I’m going to help them with anything and everything.”
That starts with any notion that the O-line may take a step backward this season.
“I don’t like thinking about it. I’m just ready to practice and get better,” Iwuagwu said. “I know what this offense I can do this season and I’m excited to see it.”
Added Hollins: “I can’t say people are sleeping on us until we prove ourselves. In order to prove ourselves, we must get better each and every day of practice. That’s our only goal – get better.”
If Hollins (center), Iwuagwu (left guard) and Niang (right tackle) win their respective positions, the Frogs will have two starting spots left to fill and plenty of competition for the jobs.
The Frogs have a couple of solid options at left tackle in 6-foot-8 junior college transfer Anthony McKinney and 6-foot-5 Austin Myers. At right guard, the options range from Casey McDermott Vai to Wes Harris to Esteban Avila.
Yes, the O-line will have plenty of new faces, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Just ask those who go against them every day.
“I have no doubt they’ll be good,” defensive tackle Ross Blacklock said. “They’re great guys, great players, great leaders – they’ll be the perfect guys to come in and they’ll be able to handle anything.”