Mike Havens (left) is in his first year as Idaho State's offensive line coach after serving two years tutoring tight ends. A former offensive lineman himself for the Bengals, Havens inherits four starters on one of the most experienced units on the team. But he's had to deal with injury issues to his two starting guards, Lance Cartwright and Mitch Rudder, during this pre-season camp. I talked with Havens after practice Thursday, as the Bengals get down to serious preparation for next week's opener with Arizona State. But before we get to the interview, a personal note or two: Havens is married to former Bengal volleyball player Nikki Havens and they have a llittle boy named Wrecker, who I met at practice Thursday night and, just for the record, Wrecker has a great smile. He's already developing that o-lineman's personality.
1. Mike this is your first year as the offensive line coach, what adjustments have you had to make in your coaching approach?
Havens: The biggest adjustment is going from having one to two guys on the field at a tme to having five guys on the field. Having to watch five guys at once can be tricky and it takes a little bit to get used to, but it's something I've had to adjust to.
2. What is your assessment of your offensive line right now?
Havens: We have a real solid group, about four returners coming back, Mitch Rudder, Lance Cartwright, Brad Shedd and Ryan Henry, and we're going to find that one guy to play left tackle, maybe Braeden Clayson or Travis Nua. So like I said, we've got a real solid group there. They're hard working, they want to be a prideful group, so I think we're going to be okay.
3. Tell us about your newcomers -- who do you think will see playing time this year?
Havens: Definitely our two JC transfer kids: Travis Nua, he's been taking time at left tackle and also on the right side, at right tackle. Also Demetrius Grant is another JC transfer that also plays tackle. So you've got a good chance of seeing those guys. Hopefully not, but if we get some injuries, maybe the young kids (true freshmen). Probably my first young kid who I'd have to put in there is Mark Clampitt, who's done an excellent job of playing a little bit of tackle, playing a little bit of center, so he's one of those good, all-around guys.
4. He (Clampitt) has also played a little bit of fullback, hasn't he?
Havens: Yeah, he has played a little bit of fullback, so you could see him wearing an eligible number in the backfield, which would be a treat for him, I'm sure.
5. If you had to pick a two-deep right now, what would it look like?
Havens: Right now, it would be Braeden Clayson at left tackle, Lance Cartwright at left guard, Ryan Henry at center, Mitch Rudder at right guard, Brad Shedd at right tackle. And then for our twos, it would be Travis Nua at left tackle, Braeden Clayson probably at left guard, Nick Tranmer at center, probably Brad Curtis, who is another young kid, at right guard, and then Demetrius Grant at right tackle.
6. You've had some injury problems, particularly at the guard spot, does it look like Cartwright and Rudder are going to be healthy and ready to go when the season starts?
Havens: Yeah, you know they don't have any real major issues, a tweaked knee (Cartwright) and a concussion (Rudder), so they're going to be okay. We're limiting Lance right now just so he can be ready for the game at Arizona State, so I think they'll both be fine.
7. First week, you get Dexter Davis, all Pac-10 defensive end, and the next week you get Gerald McCoy, all-American defensive tackle, you boys are going to have your hands full.
Havens; Oh yeah, we've been talking about Dexter for sure, and trying not to look past him to the kid from Oklahoma, but those guys upfront know they're going to have a fight on their hands and they're all willing to do it and they're excited.
8. Who is your best offensive lineman right now?
Havens: Probably have to say Ryan Henry. You know, he's directing our group, he's one of the most explosive centers we've had here in a long time. He does some things that you know, the guys say, 'It's going to be a little bit tough.' We talk about those things as a staff, and I say, 'Yeah, it'll be tough, but we got Ryan Henry in there, it'll be okay, he'll get it done.' Like I said, he's explosive, he's athletic, he's a smart, heady football player, so he's probably our best right now.
Arizona State Update
Sun Devil Coach Dennis Erickson has released his first two-deeps and there are a number of interesting aspects to it. First of all, the Sun Devils have been hit by a number of injuries on the offensive line, and that has necessitated some shuffling. Second, Erickson who is still trying to decide who will be his feature running back/or backs, lists six different options there. He says he wants to narrow it to one speed back and one power guy. The Devils have suspended starting defensive end James Brooks for the first three weeks of the season, so he won't be playing against the Bengals. And freshman linebacker Vontaze Burfict, who has been something of a sensation with his big hits in practice, is still awaiting NCAA clearinghouse approval.
And thanks for being a Bengal fan -- it ain't always easy, but it's always fun.