New Arizona Wildcats offensive line coach Jim Michalczik said after a recent practice that he has no starters on his line right now. Everybody, the coach said, has to earn his spot under the new boss.
Even left tackle Mickey Baucus, who has started the past 25 games for the Wildcats and helped produce a 3,600-yard passer, a 1,900-yard rusher and a 1,300 yard receiver last season?
And what about right tackle Fabbians Ebbele, who also has started the last 25 games and is a man mountain at 6 feet 8 inches and 309 pounds?
"Nobody is a starter yet," Michalczik reaffirmed.
While it makes perfect sense that Michalczik doesn't want to promise anything, it's hard to picture Baucus - all 6-8, 305 pounds of him - and Ebbele not being on the field for the first snap of the Wildcats' season opener on Aug. 30 against Northern Arizona.
Since the duo arrived in Tucson together in 2010, they've taken nearly the exact same path.
Both redshirted as freshmen and started the first 25 games of their college careers. They'll be juniors in the fall.
They've protected Nick Foles and Matt Scott and even kept B.J. Denker clean for a game against Colorado. They've paved the way for Ka'Deem Carey to lead the nation in rushing. And when Juron Criner and Austin Hill needed time to get downfield and make a play for their quarterback, Baucus and Ebbele provided it.
The Star recently chatted with both tackles, who are trying to earn their way this spring under Michalczik. The Wildcats took last week off for spring break and returned to practice Monday.
Q: What was the hardest part of adapting to coach Rich Rodriguez's offense?
Ebbele: "The tempo - how fast it is. That was really the hardest part. The offense is fast and furious and you have to understand the scheme."
Baucus: "Just getting your body in condition to play that fast. Nobody in their entire life has played that fast, except for a two-minute drill here and there at the end of the game. There's a method to the madness, so as long as you buy in, you'll be all right."
Q: How did you get your bodies in shape to play in such a fast offense?
Baucus: "Run and run and run all day long."
Ebbele: "You just have to run. Sometimes it hits you like a storm. There's some days when you can't even condition for it, and you just have to weather the storm and give it all you got."
Q: How will this year be different without having a determined starter at quarterback?
Ebbele: "The leadership role has come into play for us. No matter who is in the backfield, we have to step up and help lead this offense more than we've done in the past with a set quarterback."
Baucus: "Without having Matt and (center) Kyle (Quinn) back, it provides a role for us to step into. We've been on the field and we have experience to take leadership of this offense, regardless of who is throwing the ball."
Q: How have you two helped each other get better?
Baucus: "It's a great competition. We've been neck and neck since the day we arrived on campus. We push each other in the weight room, on the field, in the film room. We just help each other get better."
Q: Now a fun one. What's your dream dinner?
Ebbele: "Well I don't eat meat, so it's all seafood for me. I like swordfish or sea bass and all the crab legs. Give me some ice cream and I'll be all right. As long as it's good, we'll eat it."
Baucus: "I'm not too picky obviously. Probably some barbecue - Texas barbecue. You also can't go wrong with deep-dish pizza."
Carey back in court, expected on field
Ka'Deem Carey is expected to appear in Tucson City Court at 10 a.m. today for a pretrial hearing.
The UA's All-America running back has been charged with disorderly conduct and assault stemming from an alleged domestic-violence incident involving his pregnant ex-girlfriend in December.
Carey last appeared in court Jan. 17 when he pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The junior-to-be has been participating in spring practices; he's expected to be on the field when the Wildcats reconvene this afternoon.
Contact reporter Daniel Berk at email@example.com or 573-4330. On Twitter @DSBerk.