Countdown to Spring: Offensive Line Preview

PULLMAN—Washington State loses three seniors off their offensive line two-deeps and the Cougs enter the spring with plenty of question marks. But they got a huge piece back when one starter got an extra year and one hoss who redshirted last year may be ready for prime time. Meanwhile, the biggest key to success may have little to do with personnel.

Mike Leach likes wide splits up front on the offensive line – the longer pass rushers have to travel to the quarterback makes a difference both in terms of every-down play and in cumulative fatigue.

Meanwhile, new o-line coach Clay McGuire is thrilled to have Wade Jacobson back and is high on what he's seen thus far of Rico Forbes.

Jacobson's return isn't big, it's monstrous. The thing about Jacobson is his versatility – he can play both guard and tackle, and he's nasty. At 6-6, 306 pounds, he has feet that belie his size. But Jacobson, for precautionary measures, will be limited during spring drills and avoid any contact to avoid re-injuring his back. But a healthy Jacobson this fall is a sure-fire competitor for a starting jobs, whether it's at tackle or guard.

Forbes struggled last year early. But his improvement was noticeable in the latter half of the season, particularly his footwork. Whether the 6-6, 290-pound fourth year junior can become a starter or significant contributor will start to be known this spring. Forbes body is a perfect fit for a tackle position, and he spent most of the season last year on the right edge.

The center job appears to belong to redshirt junior Matt Goetz headed into spring. The Cougars went through three centers last season -- Andrew Roxas, Taylor Meighen and then Goetz, who flourished once he got comfortable. At 6-4, 270 pounds, Goetz is smaller than Meighen and the pair seem likely to go toe-to-toe for the starting job. But Goetz has the upper hand headed in and if he isn't snapping the ball to Tuel/Halliday come week one at BYU, it will only be because Meighen has made great strides.

Others figuring to see extensive action include Jake Rodgers, Dan Spitz and of course, John Fullington.

Fullington enters his third season and similar to Jacobson, provides another versatile body for McGuire to work with. Fullington has seen action at both tackle and guard. Last season he was lined up at LG and had a solid season in both his pass protection and run blocking.

The junior from Belfair is now officially an upperclassmen and is expected to provide the Cougars with some leadership as well. With the loss of David Gonzales to graduation, Fullington might be a strong candidate to move over to LT. Fullington is no longer the skinny, very athletic lineman he was as a frosh. He checked in at 6-5, 290-pounds last year.

Rodgers is one to watch this spring. He excelled when injuries forced a start against Utah. Was that a one-time occurrence or a harbinger of things to come in 2012?

One major concern for Leach up front is depth.

On top of those mentioned above, the Cougars have Brent Anderson, Elliott Bosch, Zach Brevick, Moritz Christ, Joe Dahl, Denzell Dotson (arrived for spring classes), Gunnar Eklund, Zack Johnson, Joe Kaleta, Chas Sampson, and Jeff Waldner listed as offensive lineman. None of that group has any game experience and apart from Christ and Dotson, the group is heavy on walk-ons.

But Leach's system, and McGuire's philosophies, could lend well to a rookie's learning curve. The Cougs will run the ball, yes, but they'll throw it a whole lot more. And o-linemen with good feet who can pass block first and foremost, will get long looks this spring.

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