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Husky Football Blog

The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

November 17, 2009 at 8:33 AM

Bye week questions, volume one

Thanks for all the great questions. Here’s the first entry digging away at the answers.
Q: How much upside do you see for the offensive line next season? Any current starters, redshirt freshmen or injured reserves that have the potential to compete with the good Pac 10 teams next year? Is there a chance that some true freshmen will start in the O-line?
A: All good questions that don’t have set answers. What I would say is that in general, it’s a longshot for a true frosh to start. But with this team heading into next season, I think anything is possible. UW will lose only one linemen this year who plays — guard/tackle Ben Ossai. Everyone else is back. So obviously, there has to be a hope that experience leads to a natural progression (though I’d warn that Washington State had just about all of its OL back this season and that hasn’t worked out so well).
Another thing to remember is that the new staff changed the approach radically up front this season, going with a new zone blocking scheme, as well as changing the bodies of most of the players dramatically. Maybe all of that will take much greater hold in year two than it did this year, though a lot of the numbers this season are a lot better than a year ago — UW is averaging 3.9 yards per attempt this season, for instance, compared to 2.8 a year ago (and maybe Chris Polk is the reason for most of that, but when judging OL, that stat is generally considered one of the best).
Two guys who hadn’t done much this year who could make a big impact next season are tackle Drew Schaefer and guard/center Mykenna Ikehara, each redshirt frosh this season. Coaches had high hopes for each coming out of the spring. But Ikehara suffered some sort of virus and lost a lot of weight and only recently has gotten back into playing shape (and then he hurt his knee during the first bye week and was out for a while). Schaefer was in line to start for much of camp before coaches changed their minds, apparently thinking he needed more time to be forced into that duty. But he’s gotten lots of time lately. And it wouldn’t be unrealistic to think each takes a big step next season.
There are no redshirting linemen this year, but a few guys are sitting out due to injury. The most promising is probably tackle Skyler Fancher, who will be a junior next season. He played a lot last season and if he can make it back to full health, will be a legit contender for playing time.
As for true freshmen next year, UW has commits from four OLs — tackles Ben Riva of O’Dea and Erik Kohler of Oaks Christian in California and guards Colin Porter of Bothell and Colin Tanigawa of Los Angeles. General consensus seems to be that Riva and Kohler are the most likely to be able to make an impact next season, especially Kohler. As I said above, generally that’s a hard transition to make — I’m doing some breakdowns of Pac-10 rosters for some stuff for later, but I think there’s only one true frosh consistently starting on an OL in the conference this year, Michael Philipp at Oregon State. But where this program is right now, it may be more likely next season than most.
If I had to guess on an OL for next year, I’d say Schaefer/Kohler at LT, Cody Habben/Fancher at RT, Ryan Tolar at guard/center, Ikehara at guard/center, and Senio Kelemete and Greg Christine/Wood at guard. However, coaches have indicated potentially moving Kelemete outside to tackle. So I think there are a lot of things that will be looked at in the spring. But I’d think those nine players — assuming Christine gets healthy — plus Fancher if he gets healthy and Riva depending on how quickly he adjusts, would be the most likely to be in the rotation. But there’s still a few months left to recruit so there could be another addition or two to the roster, as well.


Q: Do you know what the biggest conference win turnaround in school history has been? I imagine that were close if we get four conference wins this year. We haven’t had as many as 4 Pac1- wins since 2003.
A: As far as I can tell, the biggest single-season improvements in conference wins is five, by Oregon in 1994 when the Kenny Wheaton-led Ducks (sorry) went from 2-6 to 7-1 and Pac-10 champs; and Stanford in 1999 when Tyrone Willingham led the Cardinal to the exact same jump 2-6 in 1998 to 7-1 and the Rose Bowl the next season.
There have been a number of four-win improvements, and the most recent is by Cal in 2002 in the first year under Jeff Tedford when the Bears went from 0-8 to 4-4 in conference play. One thing to keep in mind is that for a number of years, some teams played only seven conference games, then for a number of years after that it was just eight, so simply not as many opportunities for wins or losses. As the question references, if UW wins its last two games it would go from 0-9 to 4-5 in conference play, a four-game improvement. That would be the best for UW in the Pac-10 era. The last time UW improved by so much as three conference wins in a season was 1977, when the Huskies went from 3-4 to 6-1 in the third year under Don James and went on to beat Michigan in the Rose Bowl.
Q: What is the real story behind the injuries to Kalani Aldrich and Everette Thompson? Will either of them ever be healthy?
A: Aldrich, we were recently told, has some chronic knee issues. Thompson has been battling an ankle injury all season. Thompson sounds on the road to recovery and barring any setback, seems like he should be fine in future seasons (his most recent issue holding him out of games was the flu). Aldrich’s sounds more ominous, just because of the use of the word “chronic” as much as anything else and he’s been in and out of both practice and games of late — he’s missed three games this season (Thompson has missed two).
More later.

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