Despite turnover, McGuire likes his OL a lot

PULLMAN — New Cougar offensive line coach Clay McGuire arrived in Pullman with three contributing seniors lost to graduation and the decision on Wade Jacobson's medical redshirt waiver still up in the air. One thing that McGuire is counting on, however, is that a hoss who redshirted last season will continue building on his Midnight Maneuvers performance.

Last season Rico Forbes spent the season watching from the sidelines in his first year out on the Palouse. The 6-6,290-pound tackle from Navarro Junior College spent the 2011 season working on his mechanics and footwork. It looks to have been time well spent.

"I've been impressed with him," McGuire said. "When we had our Midnight Maneuvers practices he was very competitive. A lot of kids you'll have during drills where they're just there to get through it but after the first day you could tell it really did mean something for him to do well."

In 2011 on the practice field, Forbes struggled early on in the season, he was consistently being beat off the edge by defensive ends. His improvement was apparent towards the end of the season, and he received praise from former head coach Paul Wulff.

"He's competitive and he's a good athlete," McGuire said. "He's arguably the strongest lineman we have. I'm excited to see how well he does in the spring. He's learned three different offenses in three different years so the quicker he can pick it up, the quicker he's going to get on the field."

THE COUGS ARE returning several o-lineman in '11 including John Fullington, Matt Goetz, Dan Spitz and Jake Rodgers among others. McGuire hasn't been able to see them in football drills but given some of the offseason meetings coaches are allowed with their players, he's pleased with the collective makeup of his group.

"These kids are tough kids," McGuire said. "I think the guys that we do have here with us right now are pretty good football players. One thing we have to do is get them bigger, faster, and stronger in the weight room but we're doing that right now."

This system we use is a fairly simple system and it's got to become second nature to them. We just have to maximize their technique and make sure we're rock solid on that so we can get out there and compete."

WHAT WOULD HELP in that regard is if Wade Jacobson returns. The senior applied for a medical hardship waiver following back surgery but is still waiting to hear back from the NCAA regarding his eligibility. McGuire said having Jacobson back for one more year would be big.

"He provides leadership, experience, depth and he's a good football player," McGuire said. "Anytime you get an 'extra' guy like that, it would be like getting Graham Harrell back at Texas Tech another year. That would have been awesome. (If he returns) I think he'll be an impact player for us."

McGUIRE WAS AMPED up when talk turned to the young talent that's headed to Pullman this summer. WSU signed Sam Jones, Niu Sale, Pierson Villarrubia, Eduardo Middleton, Sam Flor, Denzel Dotson and B.J. Salmonson to letters of intent earlier this month. WSU also has 2011 holdover Alex Mitchell geared up to arrive in the summer.

It's difficult to project players without seeing them on the field going against college competition. But out of that group, who right now looks to have the best chance to make an early impact? Who might best be able to come in right away and see playing time next season?

"I would say Sam Jones, Niu Sale and Alex Mitchell have the best shot because of their maturity levels," McGuire said. "The other kids need a year to develop I think to play at this level."

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