Inside the Gritty, Unheralded World of the Bulls' Offensive Line – USF Athletics

September 23, 2022
Offensive line coach Allen Mogridge — always Coach Mo to his players — said he misses the way it used to be with big-time heavyweight boxing. One-on-one. Fifteen rounds. The lights were bright. And the boxers couldn’t hide from the truth.
“Both of those boxers look good in the beginning,” Coach Mo said. “Everybody looks good until you get punched in the mouth. Then what? You’re supposed to do your training. You’re supposed to run your miles. Nobody really knows if that boxer did the work. When he’s supposed to be out there running, it’s dark. Everybody else is sleeping.
“But to get to that 15th round, you have to do the work. There’s no faking the truth. When it’s Round 10, you’re going to know who did the running. You’re going to know who cut corners. In that ring, it’s you against the other guy. You can’t get out of that with fancy talk or excuses. Are you going to be the lion or are you going to be the sheep? There’s honesty to that. There’s truth to that.”
Coach Mo is a truth-teller. Always has been. Always will be. He doesn’t believe in hype. He doesn’t believe in coddling. If you’re an offensive lineman, it’s about the truth. Always the truth.
So, when Coach Mo saw the passion and artistry displayed by his guys in last Saturday’s 31-28 defeat against No. 18-ranked Florida, when he saw their poise under the jet-engine noise produced by 88,496 screaming fans at the Swamp, he allowed himself a brief moment of fatherly pride.
Clearly, his guys had put in the work. With 286 rushing yards and no sacks of Bulls’ quarterback Gerry Bohanon, they mostly passed the test. Mostly. They do keep score.
“We got to finish,” Coach Mo said. “This ain’t about coming in runner-up. It’s not about getting your name in the paper. It’s not about your girlfriend hugging you or your buddy patting you on the back. We got to finish.”
So as the Bulls (1-2) prepare for Saturday afternoon’s road test against the Louisville Cardinals (1-2), it’s back to work for USF’s veteran, seasoned offensive line, the team’s heartbeat.
Brace yourself if you witness the O-line’s individual practice periods — the time when each position unit breaks for some specialized work and coaching — because Coach Mo is liable to offer some brutal assessments that could peel paint off a wall.
Coach Mo’s guys understand. It’s part of the deal.
Building The Trust
“He cares about us enough to not just tell us things that sound good,” right tackle Demontrey Jacobs said. “He cares about us enough to tell us the truth. That’s how you grow.”
When Mogridge arrived at USF with head coach Jeff Scott for the 2020 season, the Bulls’ program had gone through seven offensive line coaches the previous eight years. Mogridge told his players straight-up: I chose to come to USF. You didn’t choose me to be your coach. And that began the long road of Coach Mo earning everyone’s trust.
Coach Mo had a diverse resume — jobs at Buffalo, Western Carolina, North Carolina, UCF, Temple, Georgia Southern and FIU — and a blue-collar mentality that he displayed as a player for the North Carolina Tar Heels (1996-99), where he played four different positions (tight end, fullback, offensive tackle, defensive end).
Originally from the hills of east Tennessee, Coach Mo was in the Carolina Panthers’ 2000 training camp and played one year of Arena Football with the Carolina Cobras. He’s a history major. Favorite president: Andrew Jackson. “Old Hickory,” Coach Mo said. “I would’ve liked to coach him. He was a bad dude.”
Coach Mo could have taught history. But once he began coaching young football players, specifically offensive linemen, he found his calling. So many important lessons — resiliency, work ethic, teamwork and attention to detail — is wrapped into his coaching philosophy.
“Now we have consistency,” left tackle Donovan Jennings said. “We have bought into Coach Mo. He bought into us. He gives us everything he has every single day, so that motivates us to give that kind of effort right back.”
“Coach Mo is the most intense coach I’ve ever had,” center Brad Cecil said. “He’s definitely in the fire with us. We go through hard stuff together — hard practices, hard games, hard moments. I think we’ve learned how to stick together, get banged around and keep on working. That’s the life of an offensive lineman.”
Why would anyone want to become an offensive lineman?
Coach Mo laughed. Then he visualized himself as a high-school coach, walking the halls, trying to recruit new prospects.
“Think about this sales job,” Coach Mo said. “You stop a big guy in the hall. Hey bro, I want you to come out for our team. Now we’re going to put you out there in 115-degree weather. You’ve got to wear these big pads, but we’re never going to give you the ball. I mean, never. Matter of fact, we won’t let you tackle anybody, either.
“The five of you are going to line up side by side and you’re going to run into people for two hours of practice, every single day. We want you to shuffle backwards and make sure to keep that other guy off our quarterback, that big, fast guy running full speed. And none of the fans will ever know who you are. Oh, if you make a mistake, they’ll know who you are then. What do you say? You in?”
Coach Mo laughed again.
Then he grew serious.
“We’re not going to war and by no means are we military people jumping on a live grenade, but it’s a similar mindset, a similar selflessness,” Coach Mo said. “This is about the common good, a bigger purpose.
“Then you’ve got somebody like me, screaming at you. Every day, I’m going to be there because I love you and I care. I am your biggest advocate. At the same time, I’m your biggest critic. You can’t be half-hearted with this. You can’t be a ‘me’ guy. But if you do the work, if you don’t cheat the process, you’re going to learn how to be dependable, how to be accountable, how to attack this thing we call life.
“My guys know what this is about. I love my guys.”
Five Working As One
Coach Mo’s USF guys.
Who are they?
Donovan Jennings (Posed)Donovan Jennings, left tackle — “Talent through the roof. Now he’s going the long, hard way — by choice. He’s starting to understand grit. He has decided he wants to be different. Don-oh. Great athlete. Sometimes, you wonder what’s up in his orbit. He’s a goofball, but he’s just fun-loving. He’s a real guy. He’s played a lot of ball for the Bulls. My gosh, he keeps getting better, you better watch out! He’s going to be good to last for a while.”

Demetris Harris (posed)Demetris Harris, left guard — “Meech. Physical presence. Always smiling. Likes to mix it up. Intentionally worked to change his body. We said if you change your body, you’ll be such a better player. He said OK. He worked at it. Proud guy who appreciates what he has. Comes from a military family and you can tell. A man of honor. A man of his word. You can trust him with your life.”

Brad Cecil (posed)Brad Cecil, center — “Tough as nails. No B.S. to him. When he’s out there, he’s 10 toes down, completely in the moment. Prideful kid. Captain of the ship. He takes complete ownership of his mistakes. He ripped up his shoulder last season and came out of a game at the end. Most people would’ve been done. He missed no time. Never considered sitting out. Just kept moving. He likes the grit of things when it gets hard and miserable. He likes it.”

Dustyn Hall, right guard — “He’s country quiet. He just works until you can’t ignore him. He has my three favorite qualities — dependability, accountability and predictability. You try to break him and he keeps coming. He knows himself and he keeps chopping. Good poker face. If he has all the aces, you’d never know.”

Dustyn Hall (posed)
Demontrey Jacobs
, right tackle — “Big Trey. He works hard at every single thing he does. He works his butt off. He started at Grambling, but he bet on himself, ripped off the band-aid and found us. He has the measurable stuff the pros look for. He’ll give you problems with the long arms. Very good length. All that physical talent and he works his craft and studies the game. That gets me excited.”
Demontrey Jacobs (posed)Coach Mo, who once worked on a North Carolina offensive line with Jeff Saturday, a perennial Pro Bowler, didn’t last long in the NFL. One day, as he tried on some shorts with the Carolina Panthers, somebody he’d never seen before told him to go see the coach — and bring your playbook.
He already knew football was a fragile lifestyle. It propelled him to his life’s calling — being a coach — where he believes it’s his responsibility to make sure his players are prepared for life.
“College football goes by in the blink of an eye and even if you’re an exceptional player and you last eight years in the NFL, you’re still only 30 and you’re retiring from your first job,” Coach Mo said. “I hope we train you well enough to function in life. You can’t go into a game and ghost me. You’ve got to produce.
“You’ve got to produce in life. Bloom where you’re planted. Stop looking ahead. Stop looking behind. Don’t talk about your problems. Nobody cares. I mean, truly, nobody cares. You’re not here to be a victim. When people are counting on you — and that means your family or your boss — you’ve gotta go.
“It’s not an unreasonable expectation for me to teach you something, then expect you to execute it during a game under pressure. Nobody forced you to do this. You chose to play football. The reality is you’ve got to do your job. We’re all here together. You listen, you put in the work and I promise you that you can compete. You get five guys thinking like that, five working as one, and you’ve got something special.”
It looked special in Gainesville. Coach Mo hopes for more enhanced production in Louisville. If the O-line trend continues, the Bulls will have the foundation for a winning offense.
And that’s the truth.
– Go Bulls –

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