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The Unfiltered Truth- WSU Offensive Line
Written by OpenToClose   
Saturday, 13 March 2010 18:58

Our offensive line the past two years has been the worst in the country among all teams in BCS conferences. Last year alone the oline gave up 53 sacks. Think about that for a second. In the past two years, we've had two quarterbacks break their backs, two quarterbacks with season ending leg injuries, and we've actually held tryouts to add another signal caller to the roster. Simply put, we could have played with a Frankenstein of Jason Gesser, Ryan Leaf, Mark Rypien, and Drew Bledoe and still won only three games over two seasons with the offensive line as bad as it was. If we give up the same number of sacks this year it is a virtual guarantee that Jeff Tuel will not finish the season. In case you were wondering, we were just as bad against the run. We averaged 70 yards a game on the ground. By far the worst in the Pac-10.


Overview: The production of the offensive line the last two years has inevitably (and rightfully so) led to pretty significant changes. First, the offensive line coach and possibly the worst coaching decision Paul Wulff has made since he came to WSU was let go. Replacing him is Steve Morton. A venerable and well respected offensive coach that has deep ties to the Pac-10 and as an added bonus has also spent the past several years in the Bay Area coaching at San Jose State under Dick Tomey. The Bay Area happens to be an area of emphasis for our recruiting. Also, new are two JC tackles that spurned Arizona and Tennessee to sign on with the Cougs.


If you want to focus on one unit this Spring it should be the offensive line. Coach Morton will be installing his system and the depth chart will likely change quite a bit. The bottom line is if we don't cut down on sacks by half and increase our running attack by 50% we will be looking at another 2-4 win season. Offensive line will determine a lot of our team's success or failure in 2010.


Let's take a peek at what you should be watching for as practice gets rolling in a few weeks:


What to watch for: Who wins the starting right and left tackle jobs.

The interior of the line is in reasonably good shape. In spite of the loss of Kenny Alfred at center, we should see solid production from some combination of Zack Williams, Sebastian Valenzuela, and B.J. Guerra. It would not be surprising at all to see Andrew Roxas, Alex Reitnour, or Tim Hodgdon steal reps or start outright. The combination of the six gives us a solid two-deep across the center and guard positions. Provided we see reasonable health, we should expect to see good production from the interior line.

The big question marks reside at the tackle spots. It was at times a comedy and horror show all wrapped into one to watch our left tackles try to block Pac-10 defensive end's last season. The big thing to watch for this Spring is whether or not the new JC guys take starting positions immediately or if one or two of the young guys have improved enough to stabilize the position. My guess is that Wade Jacobson will get every opportunity to start at left tackle. The staff seems to be really excited about this guy and they believe he could be a starter from day one. It's possible that they will look to redshirt the other JC tackle (David Gonzales) but I personally find that hard to believe if he shows to be even a solid player. You'll see a mix of names like Hannam, Ayers, and Penser in the mix for reps throughout the season. Hanna and Ayers have likely maxed out their talent but Penser has the potential to improve. He doesn't look like a great left tackle to me but right tackle could be an interesting fit if Jacobson takes that left tackle job. As you can see, limited options and questions abound at the tackle spots. It will be interesting to see who sits atop the depth chart once the Spring is finished. My guess is that you'll see Wade Jacobson and Micah Hannam as your guys heading into the Summer.


What you should pray you don't read about: That more than two starting offensive line positions are still in competition coming out of Spring ball. It doesn't really matter who it is at this point. We should all just be hoping that at least three out of the five starting positions are definitively filled coming out of the Spring. That will signify that some of the talent has finally risen to the top and players are starting to sort themselves out. We can't have a revolving door at each position like we have the past two years. Our best shot a production from this unit is five guys locking down positions early and then staying healthy for the majority of the season.


What to hope for coming out of Spring ball: The exponential growth of players that have sucked but were young. A LOT of young players cut their teeth on the offensive line the past two years. It's been hard to tell if they are devoid of talent or just young. We get to find out this year. Nearly everyone returns and nearly all will be legitimately sized Pac-10 offensive linemen this Fall. All that's left is to determine how quickly players pick-up Coach Morton's schemes and whether or not they have the athletic ability to play the offensive line in the Pac-10.

My guess is that you'll see Coach Morton make the system simple and easy to learn. He's got a long track record of effective teaching and he's been in this sort of situation ten times over. All the tools are in place guys to step-up. They've had the time in the weight room and they've accrued good experience. All that's left is to show improvement.


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Comments (1)
Good take
1 Sunday, 14 March 2010 16:52
My hope is that there is enough at tackle between Jacobson, Gonzales, and Pencer to allow Hannam to follow Ayers and move inside to compete at guard with Guerra and Williams. Competition is good and necessary.

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