We’ll end our review of the offensive positions with a look at the offensive line:
POST-SPRING DEPTH CHART
LT — Senio Kelemete, Jr./Skyler Fancher, Jr.
LG — Ryan Tolar, Sr./Scott Shugert, Jr.
C — Drew Schaefer, So./Greg Christine, Sr.
RG — Mykenne Ikehara, So./Nick Wood, Jr./
RT — Cody Habben, Sr./Daniel Kanczugowski, So. or Skyler Fancher, Jr./Mark Armelin, Jr.
NEWCOMERS ARRIVING IN THE FALL
Erik Kohler, OT; James Atoe, OT; Mike Criste, OT; Colin Porter, G; Ben Riva, OT; Colin Tanigawa, C-G; Micah Hatchie, OT.
POST-SPRING OVERVIEW: Despite some experimentation at times during the spring, the line actually appears pretty well set entering the spring (that’s Tolar and Kelemete pictured celebrating a Deontae Cooper TD in the spring game).
Four of the five positions were pretty steady throughout spring — Kelemete, Tolar, Schaefer and Ikehara. Kanzcugowski, a walk-on, became one of the stars of the spring when he ascended to the starting spot at RT with Habben out while rehabbing off-season shoulder surgery. But with Habben due to return in the fall, he will slide back in as the starting RT. Obviously, there could be more shuffling. But best bet is that it is that five that starts the season at BYU.
The key to the line in the spring was the move of Kelemete from his right guard spot of last to left tackle, and Schaefer from LT to center, allowing Tolar to move from center to guard. The coaches like Kelemete’s leadership and athleticism at the LT spot, and feel he’s ready for it now after a year starting at guard while Tolar moves back to the spot where he earned some All-Freshman accolades in 2007.
Every member of the potential starting five has starting experience, as well as backups Wood, Christine and Fancher, making this one of the more veteran UW groups in a while.
Combined, the line has 85 career starts, well within the range to be considered an experienced offensive line, led by the 31 of Tolar and 27 of Habben.
Here’s how UW coach Steve Sarkisian assessed it at the end of the spring:
“Coming in, we knew we are returning four of five starters (losing only Ben Ossai). But to think that Nick Wood (four) started some games for us there, Greg Christine (six) started some games for us there — we’ve got a lot of experience. And we moved some guys around to give guys an opportunity to see what they looked like. I love the move of Senio to left tackle. I think it’s a better move getting Tolar back to guard. I like what Drew Schaefer is bringing at center. We’ve got to get him stronger. Mykenna at guard gives us some athleticism there. And then we get Cody back in the fall. So it’s a deep group, a veteran group, a proud group. And I think with their experience it is really going to help us with some of our early, tough ball games.”
The main goal for the OL during the spring was to become better at run blocking — the Huskies had some obvious issues simply knocking opponents off the ball last season and won’t truly become elite again until they can do that on a consistent basis.
Sarkisian, though, feels progress was made in that area during the spring, noting some of the impressive runs from the tailback spot.
“I thought it showed up. Obviously Cooper, Jesse Callier and then Johri (Fogerson), their long runs weren’t by accident. I thought we blocked better at the point of attack, and I thought our receivers were more committed in the run game to getting blocks down field which is a big part of it as well.”
UW had 10 scholarship OLs in the spring and signed seven in last February (though there’s still speculation James Atoe may delay enrollment).
Sarkisian says there is no set plan on how many to try to redshirt, saying all will be given a chance early and decisions made later.
“We are going to throw them right in there at the beginning and see what they look like and who physically can stand up and mentally stand up, and keep pushing them along. I’m anxious to get all of those guys in here to really get some depth on the offensive line. But the guys we have returning had a nice spring.”
Indeed, the way the line seemed to come together in the spring indicates that the freshmen OL arriving in the fall may more likely compete for backup spots and to add depth in the rotation, rather than moving immediately into starting spots, something that is particularly hard to do on the offensive line. While Sarkisian says all will be given a chance, it’s likely two or three will end up playing this year, and the rest redshirting.
The most touted of the incoming OLs may be Kohler, who some recruiting analysts called the best high school offensive lineman in the state of California last year.
Says Sarkisian of Kohler: “I’m going to assess him, assess his movements early on to see if he has the movement to be an edge guy on the tackle and enough power to be an inside guy at guard. Anxious to see all of those guys.”
Of the other freshmen, Porter and Hatchie are generally considered to be likely the most ready to play immediately.
With an experienced group returning this year, just three seniors departing after this season, what by all accounts is a good group of freshmen coming in this fall, and UW already after some of the top OLs on the West Coast for 2011, Washington’s situation on the offensive line appears as solid as it has been in some time.