We’ll continue our too-long-interrupted overview of Washington’s position groupings with a look at the offensive line.
It’s a group that could be one of the more experienced UW has had in years with four players returning who started at least 11 games last season and three who can essentially be considered at least two-year starters.
The line will have 78 returning career starts among the four returning starters — senior center Drew Schaefer (30), guard Colin Porter (19), tackle Erik Kohler (17) and guard Colin Tanigawa (12).
Before going further, a look at a probable depth chart heading into the spring:
Micah Hatchie, 6-5, 285, RSoph./OR
Erik Kohler, 6-5, 298, Jr./OR
Dexter Charles, 6-4, 293, RFr.
Colin Tanigawa, 6-3, 297, RSoph.
James Atoe, 6-6, 337, RSoph.
Drew Schaefer, 6-4, 301, Sr.
Mike Criste, 6-5, 280, RSoph.
Colin Porter, 6-4, 322, Jr.
Siosifa Tufunga, 6-2, 311, RFr.
Erik Kohler, 6-5, 298, Jr.
Ben Riva, 6-6, 300, RSoph.
T Nathan Dean, 6-5, 270; G/C Cory English, 6-4, 285; G Taylor Hindy, 6-4, 290; G Shane Brostek, 6-3, 300; G Jake Eldrenkamp, 6-5, 295.
(The roster will likely also include walk-ons Michael Kneip, 6-4, 290; Ross Dolbec, 6-6, 302; and Ben Teichman, 5-11, 277).
That’s 15 scholarship players, 14 who will have eligibility beyond this season (all but Schaefer).
The class breakdown goes like this:
SENIOR — Schaefer.
JUNIOR — Porter, Kohler.
SOPHOMORE — Riva, Atoe, Tanigawa, Criste, Hatchie.
REDSHIRT FRESHMEN — Tufunga, Charles.
TRUE FRESHMEN — Dean, English, Hindy, Brostek, Eldrenkamp.
In the most perfect of worlds, a team might have a few more scholarship OLs. Assuming the Huskies sign 3-4 next year and retain everyone else, UW may finally be back to an ideal number of offensive linemen.
As it is, and despite the inability to land some of the marquee in-state OLs from this year, you can see the Huskies have begun to replenish the depth up front the last few seasons. Now the task will be for those players to develop and again give the Huskies a dominant Pac-12 offensive line. Despite playing a key part in helping UW have one of its better offenses, there’s definite room for improvement. In conference games only last year, UW was sixth in rushing offense (4.4 yards per carry) but won’t have Chris Polk around this year to create an awful lot of yards on his own. UW also allowed 27 sacks in conference games last year, more than all but Washington State. Both of those numbers need to get better for UW to take that step to true contention in the Pac-12 (Oregon and Stanford were 1-2 in rushing last year and USC fourth).
But assuming continued development by some of the younger players and the veterans being able to bank on their experience, the outlook up front next season seems promising.
Schaefer, Porter and Tanigawa look set at their positions, assuming Tanigawa recovers from the ACL injury he suffered against Oregon State — the last report we had was that there had been no complications and he should have a normal recovery, which would put him ready to return right around the time of fall camp in August. He won’t be available for the spring, however, so the line will have a different look then.
Kohler is also back, ready to play another season at right tackle, or possibly move to left tackle, where the Huskies will have their one lone vacancy, albeit a big one with two-year starting LT Senio Kelemete having graduated. Kohler and Hatchie tended to get the most snaps there during practice last season (other than Kelemete). But Tanigawa’s absence could lead to some experimentation in the spring, and Kohler could get some time inside.
Charles and Riva will also get lots of snaps in the spring and as OL coach Dan Cozzetto always says, his ultimate goal is to get the best starting five out there that he can. It won’t be a surprise if the two tackle spots remain in some flux heading into fall camp as the Huskies try to determine the best combination up front.
The spring will also be a critical time for some of the others in the famed seven-man OL Class of 2010 to make a real jump, notably Atoe, whose future seems at guard.
Of the five new signees, Brostek and Eldrenkamp are generally portrayed as being the closest to potentially being able to play. Realistically, though, most true freshmen redshirt, and with the Huskies having a lot of experience returning the coaches will likely try to redshirt as many of the newcomers as they can. Tanigawa’s availability could play a key role in that, however.