Time for another pre-spring glance at the Cougs. This time around we will take a look at the offensive line. There is nothing glamorous about the position, is there? You don't get your name in the paper and my guess is the majority of fans do not even know your name. But in my mind, it is the most important position in the game. Where would the 2009 New York Jets have finished if it wasn't for the hogmollies up front? My guess is they would have finished 5 - 11, and wouldn't have even sniffed a chance to knock off the Bengals and Bolts in the playoffs! Would Shaun Alexander have been as terrific as he was without Big Walt, Steve Hutchinson and Robbie Tobeck blocking for him? Absolutely not!
That being said, 2010 will be a new year for the Cougs up front. Gone are the head-scratching ways of former position Coach Harold Etheridge. Being that he is a former All-Pac-10 linemen himself, Coach Wulff knew the value of what a good offensive line can do for the rest of the offense. So, he made a splash this off-season when he replaced Etheridge with his old position coach, and Coug alum, Steve Morton. Morton is no lightweight either, coaching up five Pac-10 Morris Trophy winners, as well as several all-conference selections and multiple NFL draft choices. Morton's body of work is extremely impressive.
Conversely, the last two years in Pullman?? The Coug o-Line yielded something like 100 sacks; actually it was 53 sacks in 2009, dead-last in the conference and 22 away from ninth-place Cal, with 31 sacks (wow that's AWFUL!). Mel Hein and Turk Edwards had to be rolling over in their graves after performances like that...
Zack Williams (RS Sr) Guard, 6'4", 293 lbs: After transferring from Glendale College, Williams was Redshirted in the 2008 season but played considerably last year, starting eight games. Long touted as one of the best linemen on the team since he arrived in Pullman, expect him to be one of two senior starters on the o-line in '10.
BJ Guerra (RS Jr) Guard(or center?), 6'3", 311 lbs: Has five career starts under his belt and have a feeling he will start at one of the guard spots come Stillwater in September.
Steven Ayers (RS Jr) Guard/Tackle, 6'4", 315 lbs: This big boy from Bellingham has seen action since his Redshirt Freshmen season, and has started games at both Left Tackle and Left Guard. His versatility and experience should now start to pay some dividends. He should move back to the interior next season, and probably the top backup to Williams or Guerra.
Brian Danaher (RS Sr) Guard, 6'3", 284 lbs: Walked on at Wazzu after a successful high school career in nearby Colfax. Started games as a RS Soph and RS Junior, but a series of concussions may limit his capabilities in 2010. But does provide us with some nice depth if available.
Sebastian Valenzuela (RS Fr), Guard/Center, 6'2", 342 lbs: Highly touted member of last year's class, I would imagine he develops into an interior linemen. Obviously there isn't a whole lot of info out there on this kid, but I assume with Mort and Wulff, he's got a shot at being someone to remember!
Tim Hodgdon (RS Fr), Guard, 6'3", 285 lbs: One of the three commits in the fold when Doba stepped down in December 2007, he delayed enrollment the same way Reitnouer did. I do believe USC made a late run at him before he signed his LOI with us. Could possibly play tackle but might be better suited inside.
Andrew Roxas (RS Jr) Center, 6'2", 306 lbs: Saw playing time as a true Freshmen in 2007 when Kenny Alfred went down with an injury, and helped pave the way for Dwight Tardy's 200 yard game against UCLA. Sat out last year and Redshirted, in what would have been his Junior year, after contracting Viral Hepatitis. Definitely in the lead to take over Alfred's spot, provided health is on his side. Can't wait to see how he progresses under Coach Morton. If everything goes right, he has All-Pac-10 written all over him! Reminds me a lot of, er, wait for it, Juan Garcia from the UW.
Micah Hannam (Sr) Tackle, 6'4", 284 lbs: The Pride of Peninsula HS in Gig Harbor has been a mainstay on the starting unit since his Freshmen campaign in 2007. As one of the sharpest student-athletes in recent history, he is a Civil Engineer major, I expect Hannam to step up and be the leader on this group as they seek out their identity over the coming months. I would be shocked if he doesn't play virtually every snap this season. Last year while waiting for my flight to Austin for the Notre Dame game, I was sitting amongst many alums at Sea-Tac. I began chatting up this couple from the Kenmore area, who said the student-athlete who received the scholarship they have endowed is Hannam. The wife mentioned "he was one of the best we've had and I have insisted we get him for his last year there."
Wade Jacobson (Jr), Tackle, 6'6", 310 lbs: Transferring in from Gavillan College where last year he registered 75 pancake blocks, and was voted the league's #1 Offensive Linemen. Expect him to compete for the starting spot with Tyson Pencer. But you know, I love the term "compete". While at USC, Pete Carroll was known for his Competition Tuesday, in which every position was up for grabs. I love the thought of guys having to earn their spot, rather than getting their positions by default or when somebody goes down, they were the next in line.
Tyson Pencer (RS So) Tackle, 6'6", 297 lbs: One word describes Pencer, "raw." Originally signed his LOI with WSU as part of the 2007 class, but due to perceived academic issues (he is from Canada and their system is a bit different, not always translating apples to apples) wasn't able to enroll and begin playing until Fall of 2008. Last year he saw action at a few different spots, and Coach Wulff is constantly raving about his raw, athletic ability. With the arrival of Jacobson, I think the coaches will allow his talents to develop properly. Last year he played out of necessity.
Alex Reitnouer (So) Tackle, 6'5", 240 lbs: Poor Alex was fed to the wolves last year when he was forced to start at Oregon. Originally part of the 2008 class, but delayed enrollment until last spring. With some depth finally at this position, will likely be redshirted this Fall. Tipping the scales around 240 lbs, he sure needs the time to grow!
William Prescott (RS Fr), Tackle, 6'5", 285 lbs: With a frame like his, I doubt he will be anything other than a Tackle. With lots of depth in front of him, it is great to have solid, young performers pushing from below on the depth chart. I believe one of his parents is a regular reader on here (or maybe it's over at Cougfan), if they could shed more light we would love it!
David Gonzales (Jr) Tackle, 6'6", 270 lbs: Started every game last year at Fresno City College, but appears to be a little light to see playing time this year. Per the buzz at the Seattle Football Dinner, the guess is he is going to be redshirted, and should provide some strong depth starting in 2011.
Skyler Stormo (RS So) 6'4", 260 lbs: Caught just three passes for 39 yards last season, yet still somehow made Sporting News Pac-10 All-Frosh team in '09. It is well known Todd Sturdy and Wulff would love to get the TE's more involved in the offense. While newly signed Aaron Dunn is the highly-touted prospect, still, keep an eye out for reports on Stormo this spring.
Aaron Gehring (RS Jr) 6'5", 249 lbs: Son of former NFL player Mark Gehring, he has mostly been a Special Teams performer after coming to Wazzu as a walk-on from Castle Rock High School. Would imagine he gets some TE reps this Spring, but with Dunn coming in, I don't imagine him seeing much action at the spot in 2010.
Andrei Lintz (RS Fr) 6'5", 255 lbs: Seattle Times Red Chip prospect in 2008 and grandson of a Russian soccer star, I would imagine he is 2nd String TE this Spring.
Hard as it is to believe, finally we have some depth on the offensive line. Even though Kenny Alfred has moved on, the rest of the key players are back, all with another year of experience and weight gain under their belts. And let's face it, without these guys growing together as a cohesive unit, the offense will struggle mightily. Look for some real competition this spring, up and down the offensive line. May the best starting five win! As for the tight end, well, it's Stormo and Lintz for spring ball....but Aaron Dunn should have something to say about that by August.
In Other News....after the tough loss for the Cougs in Corvallis last night, it would/could still be a great weekend if the hoops team could knock off the Ducks Saturday in the final game ever at Mac Court. Next year the Ducks open up this new beauty. WOW.
The facility-rich get facility-richer!
Meanwhile, Bud Withers recently linked to this site, and they have the Cougs as a 6 Seed in the NIT visiting South Florida. See who else is in the NIT according to these guys? That always helps me balance out the crap I have to hear from the Honks. Oh, and cheers to Withers. He is a Coug by the way, and was recently elected to the USBWA Hall of Fame.
So, do you have the urge to watch that Wazzu spanking of Winthrop, Notre Dame, or Oral Roberts from the 2007 and 2008 NCAA Big Dances? I got excited when I saw the NCAA launched this site, but it turns out they only have video of our Sweet 16 loss to the Tar Heels. Still a pretty cool concept, I would love it if they had this capability for bowl games. Who wouldn't want to watch us beat up on Texas and Purdue? That would get me jacked up for football every August!
All for now, Go Cougs!!