Yesterday we talked about the one freshman that I feel has a legitimate shot playing time on the offensive line this season, now it’s time to talk about the two deeps up front.
The injury to Rico Forbes before last season even got under way was probably the biggest misfortune of the season, as the Cougs went on to surrender a staggering (and NCAA leading) 57 sacks in 2013. Only six players went on and off the field to man the offensive line rotation, SIX! I’ve reiterated that point before (several times actually) but it really cannot be overstated how incredibly difficult that is to accomplish in today’s NCAA. During media day incumbent starting center Elliot Bosch put it this way:
The biggest thing is we were really inexperienced last year. With a year under our belts, with more experience, and also this spring, we were able to get our starting group and have them play together for most of the spring. Last season, we had a mix-match of guys each week and it was different. Playing like that you have no cohesiveness.
Hmmm, sounds familiar. Mostly because we’ve been saying exactly that on ACU for months now. Even with the few number of bodies that were basically flung around like rag dolls to the next spot down the line (even at times from series to series), WSU’s big guys got it more together after the Stanford game. Notice I didn’t say “really got it together”, but rather “got it more together”. Only Bosch survived his spot for every down of the football season and the entire unit struggled to find comfort.
However after the guys got their rear ends skinned and handed to them in half number one in Palo Alto, the second half of the game it just felt like the guys quit pouting and pointing at each other and decided to compete regardless of the competition. Simply, they put forth more effort. It never truly got fixed but the effort level definitely increased and that was encouraging.
This year, there is a whole lot more expectation from this group but it doesn’t come without some challenging precursors. First there’s the confidence factor after getting whipped all of last season. Also, with Jake Rodgers’ decision to leave the program this Spring, the Cougs are left with a little bit of a quandary due to inexperience on the Pac-12 level. Rodgers started every game last season. Rico Forbes insertion back in the lineup (or finally in the lineup since he hasn’t truly contributed yet in-season to this team due to injury), as a senior should help tremendously and is a major step forward for the group but even he hasn’t taken a significant snap yet.
We know that Bosch is the guy in the middle so let’s just skip his assumed role as the co-leader of the offense. I’m kidding of course, because you can’t just skip over this guys’ meaning. It’s always the single biggest blessing to an offense to have a redshirt senior that played every snap of the previous season anchoring your line. I think Bosch’s underrated leadership abilities could be a completely missed factor by the outside world in WSU’s revival this season.
Gunnar Eklund is still young but returning to a spot where he spent most of 2012 out on the left edge. On the right edge, the mythically-studly Forbes will finally try and stay healthy through the camp to even make it to opening kickoff. If he does it would be a huge boost to this offense. The right end was a literal revolving door to the quarterback last season and beyond the sacks it showed immediate pressure which made our Qb’s nervous, causing interceptions.
At guard Zach Brevick ended the Spring as the number one on the left side but I’d be floored if John Fullington doesn’t reclaim his spot as a starter, where he’s been his whole career. The size difference and experience level of Fullington has to be too much for Brevick to overcome or I fear for our left side. On the right Joe Dahl had a terrific Spring and should catch some early eyes with his very consistent play. Even though he hasn’t hit an opponent yet in a Cougar uniform, Leach has said that Dahl’s “bad days really aren’t that bad and even on plays where he gets beat he doesn’t whiff, he gets a piece of the guy… he’ll be alright” (boy would that be a welcome sight).
This year the puzzle also gets much more complete with the pickups of Jacob Seydel and Devonte McClain from the junior college ranks. It will finally be a treat to watch some guys actually develop in their set roles and actually accomplish some continuity with each other, more importantly their teammates beside them. Here’s my 2-deep prediction a month from now, assuming everyone stays healthy enough to compete throughout Fall camp:
- LT: RS So Gunnar Eklund, RS Fr Eduardo Middleton
- LG: RS Sr John Fullington, RS Sr Zach Brevick
- C: RS Sr Elliot Bosch, Fr Carlos Freeman
- RG: RS So Joe Dahl, RS Sr Matt Goetz
- RT: RS Sr Rico Forbes, Jr Jacob Seydel
Other key sleepers in this are the aforementioned JUCO transfer Devonte McClain (depending on his pickup and application skills), and possibly RS Fr Denzell Dotson. I think the two RS Fr Sam Flor and Pierson Villarubia are the guys that fall off the map as the Fall goes on, but they both have the opportunity to be sleepers as well.