Senior Mike Criste, the Huskies’ starting center in 2013, has been practicing at center again this week after Colin Tanigawa‘s snapping struggles continued Saturday at Arizona.
“On Monday, it was a little odd going back to just the balance of it all and the footwork,” said Criste, who has started two games this season, both at right guard. “It felt a little awkward. Going from center to guard is a completely different balance in terms of how you put your feet. It took me a day and a half to get back to it, but it’s been easy going back to it now.”
The Huskies fumbled six times in the loss at Arizona, and two of those were because of errant snaps on the center-quarterback exchange, UW offensive line coach Chris Strausser said.
Tanigawa had been a guard in his first three seasons at UW before switching to center this season. He had been grading out consistently as one of the Huskies’ best linemen, and Strausser said the snaps hadn’t been a problem until the Huskies’ trip to Colorado on Nov. 1.
Tanigawa tried to make a mechanical tweak to his snap last week.
“We tampered probably a little too late in the week. Just trying to change some things,” Strausser said. “You never know why these things happen. He’s gone the first eight games of the season having zero issues with snap. Then all of a sudden you go to Colorado and something triggers in the mind and then he’s not throwing it back there as accurate as he needs to. So we’re scrambling a bit. …
“The reality of playing center is a lot like quarterback: Some guys are more accurate than others. So all you can really do is go out there and throw,” Strausser added. “These guys, some times they get in a little bit of a funk. Whether it’s thinking about it too much or focusing on something else, you never know exactly what it is. (Tanigawa) was really accurate for the first two-thirds of the season, and now he’s struggling with it a little bit. We changed some things mechanically, but there’s only so much you can change mechanically when you’re snapping the ball between your legs five yards back. …
“Two of those (against Arizona), although you might say were Cyler (Miles), were bad snaps. He had no shot from the start. He was fighting for his life. So that’s a game-killer.”
Tanigawa has been playing guard in practice this week, and Strausser said he’s comfortable with a rotation featuring seven guys. James Atoe, at 6 feet 7, 381 pounds, is in line to start at right tackle again, after starting UW’s first nine games at right guard.
“He doesn’t have to get in a three-point stance, so he loves it out there,” Strausser said of Atoe. “He can stand up and be as big as he wants to be. He’s done a nice job out there.”
The Huskies’ offensive line, riddled with injuries this season, got a little healthier last week when Dexter Charles (ankle) rejoined the rotation at guard. Siosifa Tufunga has started the past four games in Charles’ place at left guard.
“He’s progressing,” Strausser said of Charles. “He was still a little bit hobbled out there, but I kind of wanted to send the message that he was close to being ready to go. I thought he went out there and played hard, but he was still a little bit hobbled. I think for him each week, it’s getting better.”
Senior Ben Riva (ankle, knee) played on UW’s field-goal blocking unit last week, but Strausser doesn’t expect him to be healthy enough to play on the O-line this week.