Returning Players: James Atoe (Jr), Shane Brostek (So), Dexter Charles (So), Mike Criste (Jr), Jake Eldrenkamp (RS-Fr), Cory Fuavai (RS-Fr), Micah Hatchie (Jr), Taylor Hindy (RS-Fr), Erik Kohler (Jr), Ben Riva (Jr), Colin Tanigawa (Jr), Siosifa Tufunga (So)
Losses: Drew Schaefer
A year ago the talk was about how terrible the linebacking corps had been in 2011, would they be able to improve? This year, the offensive line is in that same position. The linebackers were the team's worst position in 2011; the offensive line was the team's worst position in 2012. Cort Dennison was 2011's senior who had played a ton throughout his career, even though his physical limitations prevented him from being an above average Pac-12 caliber player; Drew Schaefer was that for the offensive line in 2012. The play of the linebackers in 2011 was so bad that Mike Cox lost his job after that season; if the line does not step up in 2013 Dan Cozetto may lose his.
It's well worn territory: the offensive line is important. It's the battery that powers any great offense. You cannot pass without protecting your quarterback, just as you cannot run without holes. Any team that loses a starter or two on the offensive line is going to struggle. The Huskies lost 1 player before the season started (Colin Porter), 2 for nearly the entire season (Colin Tanigawa, Erik Kohler), and one for half of the season (Ben Riva). Replacing 3.5 starters along the offensive line over the course of one season is a nearly impossible task.
The offensive line is a position that requires continuity to be successful. The 2012 squad didn't have a chance at that. Well, not until the end of the season. The same group started the final six game of 2012. In that span Bishop Sankey averaged over 144 yards rushing per game. Could be coincidence, could be happenstance, or it could be incredibly telling.
Heading into 2013 the offensive line is, for the most part, healthy. The starters at the start of the preseason are the same ones that will take the field against Boise State on August 31. There hasn't been the mixing and matching of past years. The team returns 81 starts along the offensive line -- 22 more than in 2012.
The Verdict: Better. There's no place to go but up, just like the linebacking corps a year ago. There's no way they can be worse. The continuity should be there, at least to start the season. Everyone aside from Schaefer is back, a year older, a year more experienced, and a year better. 4 starters are in their 4th year as a Husky, and the 5th is in his 3rd. This group has to be better.