OG Hage Leveling the Competition
BOULDER - It is no secret that the No. 16/17 University of Colorado football team's successful running game is deeply rooted in a powerful offensive line.
However, many people may not know that in a veteran group dominated by four seniors, there is one junior who is making a name for himself by flattening defensive linemen. That man is guard Marwan Hage.
Hage--who currently leads all CU linemen in dominant knockdown blocks (38) and has graded out the third highest at a 82.8 percent--has quickly established himself as one of the Big 12's most physically controlling trenchmen this season. While this is no simple feat in a conference that many players and coaches believe to be the most hard-nosed and physical, the 6-foot-3, 295-pounder has successfully utilized his power and improved technique to become a cog in CU's scoring machine.
"Marwan is extremely tenacious," offensive line coach Dave Borbely stated. "He is very intense and emotional when he plays. If you are trying to get by Marwan, there is a good chance that you'll end up on the ground."
"We are a powerful running team," captain and fellow line mate Wayne Lucier stated. "Marwan is a guy who has power, and he uses it. He is just a smash-mouth type of player."
Though he is the youngest member on the Buffs' O-line, Hage brings some of the most experience to the group. In 2000 as a redshirt freshman, he started two of the five games he saw action in. In the 28 games he has played in his career, Hage has started 25 of them, including every contest last season.
While he has played the second most games of all the linemen, trailing only Justin Bates, Hage says the journey to become a dominant blocker is one he has not completed yet. While he admits that he has always performed with a fervor to make the big block, Hage says he is constantly working on his skills to become a complete player.
"I am kind of a brawler," stated Hage, who grew up in Beirut, Lebanon before moving to Montreal, Quebec in 1990. "That has always been my style and I think it shows on the field. But, Coach Borbely took that mentality and turned it into a solid, smart way to play football.
"You can't just rely on being physical," he continued. "Each week defenses get better and better. You must always keep improving. That's what Borbely has really helped me with. He is a technician that makes you work to fix everything. He really changed my game."
With the extra attention to detail and discipline, Hage's game has risen to a new level this year. After committing three penalties and allowing one-and-a-half sacks in 2001, he has not been called for any fouls or allowed any sacks this season.
"He is much better than he was a year ago," Borbely added of Hage, who also stands second on the team with 10 touchdown blocks. "Now, he has really concentrated on becoming a better finisher. His technique has really improved, and that is very evident in the way he leads the team in (knockdown) blocks."
Along with Borbely, Hage admits that it was also the tutelage of 2001 All-American and current Dallas Cowboys starting center Andre Gurode that really helped him develop his current style. Under the different grading system of former coach Steve Marshall, Gurode led the Buffs last year with 104 domination blocks, finishing slightly ahead of Hage, who tallied 94.
"He was my mentor," Hage said of Gurode. "I still try to imitate Dre in every aspect of my game. He was a guy who was very sound in his technique, but at the same time, would overpower you if he had to. Guys did not like going up against him... he'd rip your head off."
But now, with Gurode departed, Hage has become the upperclassman that hopes to show a good example for his younger teammates. Knowing he will be the only senior on a green line next season, he wants to set his standards high right now, so there will be no drop-off in production in 2003.
"I want to help show some of the younger linemen how much dedication it takes to play well at this level. Everybody needs to find something to do for pride. It is important to always go out there with intensity and to play tough.
"One of my goals is to finish the season first in knockdown blocks," Hage continued. "I work hard on trying to finish my blocks. That is something I take pride in."
But for Hage, while he revels in smashing a defender into the ground, the chore of making a huge block is not something that is a No. 1 priority on his agenda.
"It is always nice to flatten a guy out, but what I have learned is that you have to have a controlled power when you play the game," he said. "It is about technique. If you don't stay in control and use great technique, then you will never be a complete player."
However, Hage also stresses that just because he makes a big block, or helps spring a long run, he and the offense could not be where they are today if they did not work together.
"We are such a tight knit group that always knows what the other guy is thinking. Our line is not built around one man, though, or successful because of one guy's block. Each lineman is only as good as the entire unit."
Friday Practice Notes: Head coach Gary Barnett said that tailbacks Bobby Purify (bodily soreness) and Chris Brown (bruised sternum) both sat out of practice again to rest up for next week.