In what is a big blow to an offensive line already struggling with its depth, the football career of Husky offensive guard Colin Porter is over due to injuries to each of his shoulders.
UW coach Steve Sarkisian confirmed the news Monday night to the Times. Sarkisian said Porter is suffering from “degenerative arthritis” in each of his shoulders.
“It’s unfortunate for him obviously because he had a bright future in the sport, and it’s unfortunate for us because he was a bright, young player,” Sarkisian said.
Porter, a graduate of Bothell High, has been a mainstay on the UW offensive line since making his first career start midway through his true freshman season in 2010 against Oregon State. He started six games in 2010 and all 13 last season and was projected to be a starter again this year, as well as one of the team’s offensive leaders.
But Porter quietly battled injuries to each shoulder last season and recent surgeries have determined that he can no longer play. As is customary with players who can no longer participate due to injury, he will be put on a medical scholarship, allowing him to finish his degree at UW.
Sarkisian said the shoulder issues date to Porter’s days at Bothell High School and grew progressively worse at UW. He said, however, it wasn’t known until the surgeries just how bad Porter’s shoulders are.
“It speaks volumes to how tough the kid is, quite honestly, to not just play through it but play pretty well,” Sarkisian said. “When they went in to clean it up it was a lot worse than they first thought going in.”
Porter’s most recent surgery was the week before spring ball began on April 2, after which the decision was made to stop playing.
“Obviously it’s a tough decision for a guy to make that (college) football could be over after two years of playing,” Sarkisian said. “He’ll earn his degree and we’ll support him every way we can academically and physically. He had the surgery last week so there’s still quite a bit of rehab to be done just to get healthy and we’ll do everything to make sure that occurs.”
UW had envisioned having four starters off of its 2011 line returning for 2012 with only left tackle Senio Kelemete graduating.
But Porter’s injury is the most severe of an injury bug that has hit the offensive line of late. Colin Tanigawa, who started the first 11 games of last season at left guard, is out for the spring and his status for the season uncertain after he suffered an ACL injury last November at Oregon State. And 2011 starting right tackle Erik Kohler has been working with the second unit at guard this spring as he recovers from a series of nagging injuries.
That has meant only one starter from the 2011 offensive line — senior center Drew Schaefer — is starting this spring at the same position as a year ago.
The loss of Porter will only add more urgency to UW’s need for some younger players to mature quickly this year, such as redshirt sophomore James Atoe, who has been running with the ones at the right guard spot manned last year by Porter.
Atoe played in just three games last season in a reserve role and on special teams, but earned plaudits from Sarkisian after Monday’s practice.
“I thought James has been awesome so far,” Sarkisian said. “He’s really brought it. It takes time to evolve as an offensive lineman. It takes time to grow into that body. James has been terrific, he really has. I would say he’s one of…if I could name five guys for four days that have really caught my eye, he would be one of them. He’s been a pleasant surprise so far.”
UW will add five scholarship offensive linemen this fall but now know they will be without a player who could have been a rare four-year starter up front.