The life of a nose guard at any level in football has never been one of glamour.
A former member of the Browns, who made the transition from linebacker to nose guard, summed up the switch like this: “I went from a two-legged, walking, upright, thinking human being to a four-legged, crawling, sniveling beast of burden.”
University of Akron nose guard Cody Grice certainly understands how Bob Golic, who now hosts a radio show at 3 p.m. every day on WNIR (97.1 FM), felt.
Grice, who starred as running back for Firestone before earning a scholarship to UA, made the transition to nose guard after the arrival of coach Terry Bowden and his staff.
“It was one of those moves where we didn’t know how it would work, but it’s been incredible. It went smooth. He was very athletic,” Bowden said after Thursday’s practice. “He’s up to 275 [pounds] and it gives us a defensive lineman who can play the style that we like to play.”
Grice, who has made nine tackles, including 2½ for a loss, played some defensive line in high school and had little problem converting after redshirting last season.
“It’s been better than I thought,” Grice said. “It’s been a little difficult. Guys are just different. They’re a lot bigger. You can use your hands a lot more.
“In high school you could hit them with the shoulder and they were going flying. In college you have to use more technique.”
That is certainly the case, but his position is also one of the most thankless on either side of the ball. The glory doesn’t come in tackles [although Grice had a tremendous opening game] or sacks or passes defensed.
“We require him to drive the center or the guard back into the quarterback. [We] need to create humps in the offensive line to make it hard for running,” Bowden said. “They get to smack the quarterback now and then and make a couple of tackles, but mostly they’re making two people block them so a linebacker can make a play.”
Grice, who is rarely without a smile, even while being poked about his high school alma mater dropping another game to rival Buchtel, understands what is expected.
“As a nose guard, all I have is one job — to mess that center up and hold that gap down,” he said.
It’s the kind of work that fans might miss, but coaches do not. After the season opener against Central Florida, assistant head coach and defensive coordinator Chuck Amato said that Grice’s eight-tackle performance was the best that he’d seen at that position. That compliment came from someone who has coached the likes of the Baltimore Ravens’ Peter Boulware and the Denver Broncos’ Alphonso Carreker.
“He stood me up and told me that in meetings and I was honored because that’s coach Amato,” Grice said. “That’s a big name. He’s been around a lot of great guys, so coming from him, I felt that was a great, great accomplishment.”
But Grice isn’t satisfied, and neither is Bowden, who believes that he can get better.
“If he continues to work, he can be a great player for us down the road. He fits very, very nicely,” Bowden said.
Grice plans to continue to build on what he began with Central Florida. With the conference schedule beginning against Miami on Saturday, he wants to be able to protect that gap and make plays.
“Now that we’re in conference, I’m hoping to build off that first game we had,” he said. “I’m beginning to learn my I.D. as a defensive lineman. I need to work on my pass rush. I’m pretty good at stopping the run, but I need to work on my pass rush.”
The Zips rank first in the MAC and ninth in the nation in passing offense with 340.75 yards per game. … The offense ranks second in the MAC in scoring with 35 points per game and total offense at 485.25 yards per game. Those two stats are good enough for 36th and 37th in the nation, respectively.
George M. Thomas can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Zips blog at https://ohio.com/zips. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/GeorgeThomasABJ.