OFFENSIVE LINE: WSU Fall Camp Preview

PULLMAN – Perhaps no position on WSU's offense has more questions surrounding it than the Cougars' o-line heading into fall camp. Though largely unproven, there are a number of front-line hogmollies that should have the Cougar Nation jacked up for 2012. Still, what about the depth and experience? And where do the most closely contested position battles figure to be?

Personnel/Stats
Wade Jacobson: Fifth-year senior. Has appeared in 16 games in his WSU career, getting the starting nod in 15 of them. Jacobson is coming off a year in which back injuries limited him to just four games and held him out of spring contact. He was granted a medical redshirt for the 2012 season. Jacobson enters as the starting left guard heading into fall camp but can also play tackle, though he prefers the inside. Jacobson has dropped 19 pounds in the offseason in an attempt to be lighter on his feet.

John Fullington: Third-year junior. Has appeared in 24 games in his WSU career, starting 18 of them. As a sophomore in 2011, Fullington was named an All-Pac-12 honorable mention. Fullington is very technically sound at left tackle, and has some scouts believing he has a future on Sundays. Fullington has put on nine pounds in the offseason, (much of it jokingly attributed to a new Fabio-esque hairdo.)

Matt Goetz: Fourth-year junior. Played in all twelve games last season, starting the final nine games at center. Goetz is tabbed as the starting center headed into fall camp.

Dan Spitz: Fifth-year senior. Spitz has appeared in 20 games in his career, 11 of those coming on the offensive line. Spitz was moved from defensive line to o-line following the 2009 season. Since then, Spitz has put on over 50 pounds and showed signs last year he could become a force in the trenches. Spitz started seven games at right tackle in 2011, but is listed as the starting right guard heading into fall camp.

Rico Forbes: Fourth-year junior. Redshirted in 2011. Has yet to take the field for WSU in a game but a good showing this spring has him listed as the starting right tackle headed into camp.

Offensive Line Depth:
Jake Rodgers: Third year sophomore. Has played in three games in his career, starting once at right tackle. Rodgers was highly regarded by the previous staff, (and his world-famous hair has become an internet sensation) but fall camp will tell if Rodgers draws rave reviews from Mike Leach in the coming weeks out on the field.

Taylor Meighen: Fourth year senior. Played in three games in 2012. Currently listed as the third string center.

Elliot Bosch: Fourth year junior walk on. Has appeared in eight career games in his WSU career. Currently listed as the second string center.

Gunnar Eklund: Second year freshman walk on. Redshirted in 2011, slotted as the second string at both tackle positions.

Elliot Bosch: Fourth year junior. Has appeared in eight career games in his WSU career. Currently listed as the second string center.

Denzell Dotson: First year freshman. Joined Washington State early out of high school in January of 2012. Dotson is currently listed at 6-2, 308.

Also in the mix:
Brent Anderson: Third-year sophomore. (6-1, 267)
Zach Brevick: Fourth-year junior. (6-5, 266)
Moritz Christ: Second year freshman. (6-5, 319)
Joe Dahl: Redshirt freshman. (6-4, 272)
Chas Sampson: Fifth year senior. (6-4, 301)

Newcomers:
FR. Sam Flor: 6-4, 296
FR. Eduardo Middleton: 6-5, 301
JR. Niu Sale 6-3, 300
FR. Pierson Villarrubia 6-4, 268

Snapshot:
The Cougs are laced with uncertainty and inexperience up front headed into fall camp -- and some second stringers are walk ons. The left side of the offensive line has a combined 33 starts under their belt. Comparatively , the right side of the line has a combined nine starts, all from Spitz. Forbes is yet to experience Pac-12 opposition, a transition he will need to make quickly if a solid performance from the offensive line is to be achieved.

The 2012 hogmollies are raw – plus the starting five have yet to see the field together. Chemistry and consistency will be the No. 1 priority for offensive line coach Clay McGuire and his stable of beef in fall camp.

But what the offensive line lacks in experience, they certainly make up for in athleticism. Jacobson, Fullington and Spitz are agile and quick on their feet. The trio gets out of their stance quicker than most, lending them the ability to engage the defender quicker off the snap. In an offense predicated off the pass, sufficient time for the quarterback will be imperative, and this offensive line is capable of it, but needs to prove they can do so with consistency.

Quick Hitters:
Some of the youth will likely have to grow up quickly. WSU brings in five rookie o-linemen for fall camp from the '12 class, (a sixth, B.J. Salmonson 6-5, 265 will grayshirt and enroll in January.) Dotson has been at WSU the longest, since January, but Sale, a JUCO transfer, might be the most Pac-12 ready.

Middleton and Flor are both well put together, already right around 300 pounds. Villarrubia would appear destined to redshirt as he's on the light side but nothing is off the table at the start of fall camp.

It would be a welcome bonus if someone from the group of Anderson, Brevick, Christ, Dahl and Sampson suddenly emerged in fall camp and showed themselves to be a capable back-up -- ready to possibly even push the starters and if called upon, step in on Saturdays without a precipitous drop-off. (with Christ, Dahl and Sampson arguably the best candidates.) It might not be the most realistic scenario, but a stellar offseason can and has at times yielded a surprise or two on the WSU o-line in fall camps past.

The battles:
With such an immense amount of inexperience on this year offensive line, many believe the right side of the line could be wide open headed into fall camp, (assuming Jacobson stays on the left side).

Indeed, Spitz and Forbes may both find themselves deadlocked in heavy position battles this month, with Sale and others likely to be given every opportunity to succeed.

As previously noted, Rodgers drew consistent applause from the former coaching staff and might be coming into his own in 2012. Don't be surprised if the young right tackle impresses from the get-go.

Goetz looks to have solidified his job at center. It was a bit of a surprise to see Meighen, at one time locked in a tight battle with Goetz, listed as third-string on the post-spring depth chart. Give some credit to Bosch, though, for his work this spring.

Goetz left Texas Tech after the 2009 season while Mike Leach was the head coach to attend a junior college but the fact Goetz is No. 1 headed into fall camp, despite battling injuries and missing some time this spring, makes crystal clear that any disagreements between Leach and Goetz are ancient history.

Fullington is as close to a lock as you can get at left tackle.

Final thoughts and intangibles:
With some experience on the left side and little on the right, a more-than-normal shifting of players during fall camp could be in the cards -- and the 1s and 2s could look different day-to-day in the early going.

The Air Raid offense routinely uses the short passing game, so the offensive line may not have to hold off its opposition as long as in years past. That said, for the offense to be able to throw the ball downfield, run the ball efficiently and pick up good gains on screens, (a staple of the Air Raid,) the WSU o-line is going to have to perform as a cohesive unit.

The o-line is adapting a new system in 2012, as well as wide splits, but Leach's offense and all of its variances appear to be easier to assimilate than other coaching/new offenses in general. The veterans should also be able to help the younger guys adjust and furthermore, perform at a Pac-12 level.

If WSU can stay relatively healthy on the o-line through fall camp and into the season, they could be a solid group, though it's almost certain there will be some consistency issues regardless.

One thing this offensive line will be sure to showcase in fall camp? Hair. Lots and lots of hair. Last season, only Meighen sported the long-hair look. This fall, Jacobson, Fullington, Rodgers, Meighen, Villarrubia and even quarterback Jeff Tuel will be letting their locks flow on the practice field. Tuel has even received remarkable amounts of support from former Coug Jed Collins in his pursuit to let it all out.

For many Cougar fans, for all they care, the players can model their hair styles after Cher if the o-line and offense can lead Wazzu to a bowl game this season.

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