Entering the 2008 season, Washington was looking forward to moving the ball behind a veteran offensive line which--on paper--appeared strong enough to open some holes for an inexperienced running back corps, prioviding Jake Locker time to create his magic in the backfield. Things took a turn for the worse in spring practice when veteran center Juan Garcia went down with a Lisfranc foot injury. To Garcia's credit, he made a recovery bordering on miraculous and started every game in 2008. However, the injury limited Garcia's performance and his decline was noticed on the field. The entire offensive line had a terrible season, and the Washington offense went nowhere once Jake Locker was injured in the fourth game.
Moving to 2009, the offensive line is the new coaching staff's greatest concern. Upon arrival, the new staff set a number of goals to improve the overall conditioning of the unit, demanding weight loss, speed, strength, and explosiveness. Though working against a pressing time frame, the offensive line has made great strides and will undoubtedly play better in 2009 given:
- The conditioning program. As Dean Wormer once told Flounder, "Son...fat, lazy, and stupid is no way to go through life". UW has made some great strides and the kids' bodies have been transformed.
- Coach Sarkisian's installation of the Pro Set offense simplifies blocking assignments, allowing the athletes to play toward their strengths.
- The arrival of offensive line coach Dan Cozzetto. Juan Garcia said it best when Cozetto was hired, "Those guys are going to die, they are just going to die!"
Junior Ryan Tolar is the likely starter at center, holding of redshirt freshman Mykena Ikehara this past spring. The challenge for Tolar is making the line calls required for the position. Physically, Tolar is an obvious choice; to take it to the next level, he must get the mental part down. Ikehara is the heir-apparent at the position and is probably the most promising youngster in the unit, needing more strength and weight. Upon doing so, Ikehara will own the position for the remainder of his UW days
Flanking Tolar are guards senior Ben Ossai and sophomore Senio Kelemete. Ossai was a three-year starter at offensive tackle who has been moved inside this season. Ossai has much untapped potential, but his conditioning and overall work ethic were a question mark under the previous regime. A solid off season of conditioning and Dan Cozzetto in his face daily have changed his game around. Sarkisian's staff believes Kelemete will be an All-American some day. A starting defensive tackle for part of 2008, Kelemete would have greatly benefitted from a redshirt season to gain knowledge, strength, and the agility.
Senior Morgan Rosborough, junior Matt Sedillo, and sophomore Scott Shugert are the backups at guard, while junior college recruit Daniel Mafoe may challenge for a starting job if he qualifies academically.
Junior Cody Habben and redshirt freshman Drew Schaeffer are the starting tackles. Habben was clearly overwhelmed in 2008 spent most of his time either in full-speed reverse, missing blocks, or lying flat on his back. Cody must make a significant improvement in 2009 or he could lose his job to one of the younger players. Schaeffer may soon join Kelemete as a future anchor on the line. While rare for a redshirt freshman to start out at tackle, the coaches have faith in Drew to be a solid contributor this season.
Expect sophomore Skyler Fancher and sophopmore Mark Armelin to be the top reserves at tackle, though Fancher is recovering from a nasty leg injury. Redshirt freshman Terrance Thomas is another prospect to watch, with walk-ons Nick Scott and center Doug Christine contributing quality depth.
Overall, Washington does not have the depth and talent needed to win championships on the offensive line. Such quality requires several years to develop and can only be accomplished by recruiting, strength training, and conditioning.
Sarkisian wasn't able to recruit any high school offensive linemen following his late start in the process. Rather than offer scholarships to under-qualified athletes, he decided to wait for the 2010 recruiting class. Coach Sark already has commitments from local giants in Redmond's Colin Porter and O'Dea's Ben Riva, with the goal is to take three more studs to build around. Erik Koehler from Oaks Christian lists Washington as his favorite at this point, the teammate of QB Nick Montana, would be a huge get. Nick Rowland from Centennial HS in Peoria, Arizona is another highly recruited athlete the Huskies have a chance to get after Coach Dan Cozzetto established previous ties with him. Micah Hatchie from Hawaii, Colin Tanigawa from LA's Loyola HS, and Wenatchee's Mike Marboe also possibilities.