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Wood ready to go at center

Posted Jul 30, 2011

Bills head coach Chan Gailey said it will be a competition, but day one of actual football work Saturday provided a clear indication of where the coaching staff stands at the outset with respect to the center position.

Eric Wood manned the starting center spot in walk through drills Saturday morning, and is eager to compete.

“I’m just looking forward to it,” he said. “I like having the opportunity to play center. Me and Geoff (Hangartner) are going to work hard. The best five guys are going to play. That pretty much happens every year, so we’re all going to come out and compete and trust that the coaches will put the right people in the right spots.”

Hangartner, who has been the starting center since signing as a free agent with the club in 2009, manned the pivot with the second unit Saturday morning.

Gailey seemed to indicate that Hangartner and Wood might take turns with the first unit as he will let the players ultimately determine who gets the starting nod.

"Eric Wood and Geoff (Hangartner) will both be at center," he said. "It’s an opportunity for us to find out who the best players we have are. My responsibility is to play the best guys that help us win. We think we have some guys that can play guard and they need to play. They need to see if they can compete and do the job."

Hangartner made 28 starts at center for the Bills before an ankle injury forced him to miss the last four games of the 2010 season. Wood stepped in and played admirably relying on his experience there from his college days.

“That’s his natural position,” said Bills offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris. “That’s what he played at Louisville all those years and I think it was 49 or 50 consecutive starts. So he was drafted as a number one center. And that’s his projected position, so we’ll see how this all plays out.”

D’Alessandris thought Wood’s best two games at center last season were the final two games against New England and the Jets. For Wood those four starts in live action will serve as a firm jumping off point for him this season after not having the benefit of spring workouts.

“Those last four games gave me some experience at this postion,” said Wood. “Me and Fitz got some chemistry that normally we wouldn’t have if I just made the switch in the offseason. We feel good about it.”

Wood feels even better about entering training camp with a clean bill of health after rehabbing all of the 2010 offseason and getting into game shape as the season wore on.

"I’m just excited to be healthy," he said. "Guard or center just being out here and feeling like myself again is pretty good.”

Back in 2009 when Wood was drafted Bills GM Buddy Nix said in preparation for that draft they had Eric Wood, Andy Levitre and Kraig Urbik ranked as the top three guards in the class. Now the Bills have all three. So it wasn’t surprising to see them as the three interior linemen on the starting line this morning with Levitre at left guard and Urbik at right. The odds seem good that they'll be the three interior starters come Sept. 11th.

“That could happen that way,” said D’Alessandris. “I know this. Urbik has a bright future, Andy has a bright future and Eric does too. All three of them have some great, great skills and ability. Now the object is stay healthy and let the cream come to the top.”