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Husky Football Blog

The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

January 30, 2013 at 4:39 PM

Commitment position spotlight — Offensive line

We’ll continue our look at UW’s commitments for the Class of 2013 by position group by examining the offensive line.

And this is an area that has drawn a lot of conversation — if not consternation — on message boards and elsewhere with UW having commitments at the  moment from just two OLs — guard Andrew Kirkland of Jesuit High in Portland and center Dane Crane of Santa Margarita Catholic High in Santa Margarita, Calif.

The 6-5, 290-pounder Kirkland is rated the No. 37 guard prospect in the country by Scout.com while  not having a rating by Rivals.com by position, but considered a three-star overall prospect by both.

The 6-3, 295-pound Crane is rated the No. 3 center  by Scout.com and No. 7 by Rivals.com.

UW hopes to add tackle Nico Falah of St. John Bosco in Bellflower, Calif. which would obviously bolster the class. And the Huskies for a long time appeared to have two other highly-rated OLs committed  in Sean Harlow and Poasi Moala.

Harlow, though, later changed his commitment to Oregon State, as did Moala to UCLA. Had those two stuck with UW, and with the Huskies still having a legit shot at Falah, Washington might be on its way to putting together one of its best OL classes in a long time.

Instead, UW could end up with  just two players listed as OLs if Falah sticks with his previous USC commitment and if no other linemen jump in the boat — there aren’t any others considered as imminent to commit to UW, but late surprises at this spot aren’t uncommon, witness the signing day news last year of the commitment of Taylor Hindy, something no one knew about.

Recruiting analyst Brandon Huffman of Scout.com/FOXSports said in a live chat Tuesday that the offensive line remains the greatest area of need for the Huskies:

I would definitely say offensive line- which is why flipping Nico Falah is so huge for them.  Its not a great year for OL’s out West, especially compared to last year, but Falah is one of the better ones, and I’m already a fan of Dane Crane and Andrew Kirkland, but a true tackle would be a very big and much needed pickup for the Huskies.

Analysts, though, note that a pair of commits listed at the moment as DLs — Jaimie Bryant and Andrew Basham — could each end up on the offensive line if needed.

Also, why the offensive line is an obvious area of needed long-term improvement for the program, from a strict numbers standpoint the Huskies project to be okay entering 2013 even if only Kirkland and Crane sign.

UW loses only Drew Schaefer of the linemen who were on the roster in 2012, meaning 12 scholarship OLs will return, a number that does not include Shane Brostek, who started three games at guard before moving to the defensive line. Three other walk-ons should also be back, including Michael Kneip of Bellevue, who turned down a few smaller-school offers to walk-on at UW and is regarded as a player who could legitimately factor in the depth chart.

That should give UW its best combination of overall numbers and experienced depth up front since Steve Sarkisian became coach following the 2008 season, particularly if the injured Erik Kohler and Colin Tanigawa make it back to full  health in time for the 2013 season.

Huffman also says the outlook is good for UW to get more OLs in the Class of 2014.

Asked  in the Tuesday chat to assess why UW has had difficulty landing OLs in recent years, Huffman responded:

I think if you look back to their 2010 class, they showed some real signs of life on the OL recruiting front with Kohler and (Colin) Porter and (Micah) Hatchie.  Obviously, injuries have killed them there.  The 2011 OL class was awful out West.  2012 was remarkable, but obviously UW really struggled there, especially given the talented prospects in state.  2013, is very similar to 2011, not a great class out West, though the best center is a Husky, and the best tackle was a UW commit but the distance ended that (Moala).  The good news is the 2014 class should be better, and while USC has already locked up the top three OL for that year, UCLA has 7 commits and probably won’t be hitting many guys next year- so that gives UW a big opportunity to stock up next year.

In fact, it may be easy to forget how highly-rated some of those guys in the Class of 2010 were — Hatchie, Porter and Kohler were all rated four stars by Scout.com and among the top 25 at their position nationally (Porter and Kohler in the top 10).

Adam Gorney, the West Recruiting analyst for Rivals.com/Yahoo.com, echoed some of the thoughts of Huffman that it wasn’t a really deep year for OLs on the West coast, saying “it doesn’t even come close in comparison” to 2012, so it wasn’t really a good year for just taking numbers at that spot. Like Huffman, be said 2014 looks a lot better and that he expects the Huskies go hit the OL hard in that season. None of UW’s returning OLs in 2013, however, are seniors, which also could be factoring in to being a little selective this year and then hitting it harder in 2014.

No question, the offensive line remains a spot where the Huskies have to improve. But UW did sign seven OLs in 2010 and five plus Kneip as a preferred walk-on in 2012. Some people have questioned why UW didn’t take more than two OLs in 2011. But Steve Sarkisian has said often he doesn’t see the purpose in taking players at a spot if he doesn’t feel they can play at the Pac-12 level just to make the  numbers look good. Also, I don’t think pure numbers probably are the issue as much as just getting production out of the players that are there. That will  be the key going forward.

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