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Spring Position Preview: Big Dudes (Offense Edition)

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In which the offensive line is freed from the yoke of John Donovan.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: APR 09 Washington Spring Practice Photo by Jeff Halstead/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Hello and welcome to day four or five or something of UWDP's spring position previews. Today is the last of the offense, but it's also *ahem* the most fun of the offense.

I'm talking, of course, about the line.

2021 Redux

They sucked. Like, just poo levels of play. But also, the offensive and blocking schemes they were given may as well have just been instructions saying "be bad,” so that doesn't really teach us too much about what's to come especially considering the pure talent level. Moving on.

Key Departures and Additions

Departures: Jaxson Kirkland, and then not Jaxson Kirkland, Luke Wattenberg, Ulamoo Ale

Additions: Freshman Parker Brailsford

The Jaxson Kirkland situation is still ostensibly up in the air a bit, although it seems more likely than not that he’ll be able to come back for one more season. As a refresher for anyone who forgot, Kirkland initially declared for the NFL Draft, then had crappy injury luck with his ankle, then withdrew his name from the draft, and now... question mark? Last most of us heard, the NCAA hadn’t signed off on reinstating his eligibility yet but it was likely to happen.

MJ Ale will still be quite interesting to watch — more so than before, in my opinion — because while we pour one out for his guard career, we now get to see what happens when you take 6’6” and 355 lbs of dude and put that on the defensive line. (Didn’t the Dawgs have someone like that before? Just can’t, quite, put, my finger on it...)

At the risk of stealing the thunder from whomever of our writers is finishing up their defensive line preview as we speak, this move for Ale is for now mostly potential and nothing else — but bah gahd is there a bunch of potential there. This move dares ask the question, “What if we took a Vita Vea-sized human but made him even bigger and also a former boxing champion? And Australian?” (Obviously the Australian factor isn’t technically relevant, but Washington’s most ass-kickingest athletes have all been Australians lately, so it feels worth including. And Race Porter.)

But I digress. Back to the offensive side.

Roster

Fr Parker Brailsford 6’2,” 255 lbs
rFr Myles Murao 6’3,” 320 lbs
rFr Geirean Hatchett 6’4,” 290 lbs
rFr Gaard Memmelaar 6’4,” 300 lbs
rFr Samuel Peacock 6’6,” 285 lbs
rFr Owen Prentice 6’2,” 310 lbs
rFr Roger Rosengarten 6’6,” 285 lbs
rFr Robert Wyrsch 6’6,” 275 lbs
So Troy Fautanu 6’4,” 310 lbs
So Nate Kalepo 6’6,” 330 lbs
So Julius Buelow 6’8,” 330 lbs
Jr Will Pliska 6’5,” 285 lbs
Jr Matteo Mele 6’5,” 290 lbs
Jr Victor Curne 6’3,” 330 lbs
Sr Henry Bainivalu 6’6,” 330 lbs
Sr Corey Luciano 6’4,” 295 lbs

Vibe Check Things to Watch

  • Will Scott Huff not suck as a developer when put in a system that’s not archaic?
  • Lake and Co put huge bodies at guard that would in theory usually be more conventionally played at tackle — will there be shakeups here, position-wise?
  • On the other hand, Curne & Fautanu have that tackle quickness but are built more like guards — could they move to guard and bring more athleticism to the position?
  • Myles Murao was an extremely highly-regarded prospect specifically for center... Can he seize that?
  • Guys who were the prototypical “lanky kids with big frames” in high school, taken to be built into tackles and are now almost at that point physically: Roger Rosengarten, Samuel Peacock... Robert Wyrsch is still a bit away but not impossible. Are any of them “ready”?

Depth Chart Guesstimates

This is more complicated than normal (read: I’ll probably be wrong) just because of the coaching change and how unconventionally Lake and Co A) deployed certain players at certain positions and B) deployed those positions themselves, particularly at guard.

Thus, a lot of projecting here comes down to whether or not Huff under DeBoer moves guys around to better utilize their skillsets in an offense that doesn’t harken back to the Thatcher administration.

With that in mind, I’ve divided players roughly into positions I feel they’re generally likely to fit into, with the keyword being “generally.” I mean, really, really rough... Even in a solidified year, there’s usually be plenty of guys who could play multiple positions, and then add in this offensive transition and hoo boy.

Probable/Possible Tackles

Roger Rosengarten, Samuel Peacock, Robert Wyrsch, Jaxson Kirkland (if he is actually back), Matteo Mele, Victor Curne (physically a classic guard but with that quick feet n’ tackley-ness skillset)

Probable/Possible Guards

Owen Prentice (AKA Guardy McGuardface), Myles Murao (obviously a center first and foremost, but could probably guard it up), Matteo Mele (only done center and tackle for the Dawgs, but I have this sneaking suspicion that he could slide over to guard), Nate Kalepo (huge like a tackle, but guard-y), Julius Buelow (like Kalepo, except huger), Henry Bainivalu (physically tackle-ish but with guard experience. Like a reverse Victor Curne kinda...), Gaard Memmelaar (a guard so guard-y they call him Gaard), Geirean Hatchett (have you seen this dude’s pulling guard high school footage? Yeah that’s a guard.), Troy Fautanu (good enough feet for tackle, but built like a guard)

Probably/Possible Centers

Myles Murao, Corey Luciano, Matteo Mele (no parenthesis notes needed for these three, thank God)

Really, the only über-settled thing here is who can play center. Otherwise, you have a few guys who are definitely tackles (Rosengarten, Peacock, Wyrsch), a few who are definitely guards (Gaard, Hatchett, Prentice) and everyone else.

My gut is we'll see something like this:

Jaxson Kirkland — Troy Fautanu — Myles Murao — Henry Bainivalu — Victor Curne

Or this:

Jaxson Kirkland — Troy Fautanu — Matteo Mele — Victor Curne — Henry Bainivalu

Or, if Kirkland doesn't get his eligibility reinstated, this:

Roger Rosengarten — Troy Fautanu — Myles Murao — Henry Bainivalu — Victor Curne

(Or this):

Troy Fautanu — Nate Kalepo OR Julius Buelow — Myles Murao — Henry Bainivalu — Victor Curne

So basically, in other words, I have no clue.

Kalepo and Buelow obviously have loads of potential physically, but neither were a clear success last season — although obviously nothing with the offensive line was a clear success last season, so who even really knows how to evaluate them. But it's worth questioning if, in this new scheme, their size turns into a case of diminishing marginal utility versus mobility, feet, and pulling ability.

Rosengarten is, in my mind, the primary dark horse to take over as a starting tackle.

Murao winning the center job would, from the outside at least, be perfect.

And maybe I'm overlooking Luciano, although him playing center seemed more based on default than anything else.

Fautanu and Curne are interesting cases of not being prototypical tackles physically but having the skillset to potentially make up for that.

Mele's been an above average sixth man for a few years.

And it wouldn't be totally out of left field if one of Prentice, Hatchett, or Memmelaar challenged for a starting guard spot.

Either way, I think other than the quarterback battle one of spring's most interesting developments will be the fleshing out of the offensive line structure and who can pull (no pun intended) ahead, especially considering the new offense. This particularly puts the focus on the guards given how their roles changed drastically from the Pete years (power runs, pulling, quickness) to Lake's two seasons (get big dudes who can just maul forward), and how they're almost certainly gonna be moving back to Pete's style of guards and then some.

I realize the line isn't exactly the most exciting of positions but there's so many potential combinations here, plus we'll get a preview of schematically what these combos could look like, plus get more insight into how this new scheme will affect which individual skillset works best and where for DeBoer. What can I say, it's exciting if you're moi.

Do good things, don't do bad things, and bow down to Washington.