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Studdard steps up


Kasey Studdard made the most of his college career at the University of Texas. The guard was a three-time All-Big 12 selection, captain his senior year and a starter on the 2005 national championship team.

As a rookie last year, Studdard barely made a dent in the Texans' lineup. He played in three games, primarily seeing action on special teams. Studdard got his chance on the offensive line when Fred Weary broke the tibia in his right leg in Tennessee, but Studdard subsequently lost a position battle to Mike Brisiel, who started at right guard the remainder of the season.

{QUOTE}Entering mini-camp this year, Studdard looked like he could have trouble making the regular-season roster. The guard doesn't look like a long shot anymore.

Studdard is playing on the first team during OTAs as left guard Chester Pitts nurses sore shoulders, and the second-year pro is impressing coaches with his improved play at the line of scrimmage.

"If you looked at the depth chart when we got started here a few weeks ago, he was in for one heck of a battle and all of a sudden he's been our starting guard for the last four practices and just gets better every minute he's on the field," head coach Gary Kubiak said. "I think players emerge because of situations like that, but it's up to them once they get an opportunity to play well enough that you can't take them off the field.

"Kasey Studdard probably had 200-some reps at guard in the last three practices that Chester has missed. So we're going to be a better football team when Kasey Studdard's a better player."

Studdard wants to make sure that is exactly what happens. He has been focusing on improving his fundamentals, especially his footwork and movement. The guard also has developed good chemistry with the team's best left tackles, Duane Brown and Ephraim Salaam.

"It's nice being able to work with new tackle Duane and work with Ephraim because last year I didn't get to work with Ephraim," Studdard said.

"I feel like I know the plays and know what's going on finally. That's the biggest thing, knowing where to go every time. You don't have to think about it. You just know it like the back of your hand."

Offensive line coach John Benton thinks Studdard's hard work is starting to show, as the guard takes full advantage of each rep he gets.

"He's almost the surprise of the camp," Benton said. "He's played very well. He's really improved himself from last fall. We're very pleased with where he's gotten."

At 6-2, 303 pounds, Studdard doesn't boast the ideal body type for the zone blocking scheme the team is installing. The scheme typically requires quick, athletic offensive linemen, but Benton says that Studdard quickly has picked up his assignments.

"He's right along with everybody," Benton said. "He getting a lot of quality reps and it (zone blocking) seems to be working for him."

What helps Studdard is that he plays with a mean streak, which the coaches love.

"Kasey has always brought an element of toughness and grit to us, and that's good for our group," Benton said. "That's definitely his strong point. I think the area where Kasey has really improved is he has brought up the areas he was deficient in, in terms of technique and assignments and being a little more conceptual with things. And that has really paid off for him."

The real test for Studdard will come when the team starts wearing pads and offensive linemen begin cut blocking and trying to get to second-level defenders. If Studdard can prove himself in those two areas, he could make an impact on the team in 2008.

"Attrition can be your best friend, if you are ready for it and he's taken advantage of it," Benton said. "He started out as a back-up, role type player. That's his whole jobs to get people talking about him being a regular-rotation guy. That's what continues to happen."

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