Unraveling the mystery around Spitz

AS MYSTERIES GO, it's hardly the stuff of John Grisham or Scott Turow. But as college football offensive lines go, trying to follow the status of Washington State senior starter Dan Spitz over the last three weeks has led to more twists and turns than a day at Six Flags.

While the principal players in the case, Spitz and head coach Mike Leach, are mostly mum, three sources close to the program have told CF.C the roller coaster ride has finally come to a conclusion.

Spitz, a fifth-year senior and the last Cougar player with ties to the Bill Doba Era (he was a verbal commit to Doba before signing with Paul Wulff), has left the football program according to the three sources, each of whom is in a position to know. In addition, Spitz has temporarily withdrawn from school and is headed home to Spokane, they say.

One source said Spitz withdrew on Monday for unknown medical reasons, but that he planned on returning in January to finish his degree.

Spitz politely declined to comment on his situation. Leach, through WSU's sports information department, also passed up on addressing the information from CF.C's sources, all of whom asked that their names not be used in this report.

Leach and his coaching staff don't comment to any significant degree on health or other matters related to any player adsences from practice or games. But early last week both Leach and offensive line coach Clay McGuire offered cryptic comments that added to the wide speculation on Spitz that has circled around Cougar Nation for the last three weeks.

MacGuire at that time said he couldn't comment on Spitz' status "because I really don't know myself. I don't really know what to tell you, honestly." The same day, Leach said, "I haven't heard how he's reconciled all his stuff, so I don't know (his status)," adding that he thought Spitz was still with the team, but didn't know for sure.

What the "stuff" has been a moving target.

Spitz started WSU's first two games of the season and is believed to have partaken in the rigorous workout Cougar offensive linemen were put through shortly after their not-so-inspiring Week Two performance against Eastern Washington on Sept. 8. His absence from practices leading up to the subsequent game, at UNLV, were said by coaches to be classroom related. The following week, in the run up to the Colorado game, coaches said his absence was for personal matters.

The day after the Colorado game, however, Spitz was back at practice for the first time. But then he was gone again for the rest of the week leading up to the Oregon contest.

The twisting conclusion to Spitz' career mirrored his tenure at WSU. After redshirting in 2008, the 6-7, 301-pounder from Mead High started five games on the defensive line in 2009 and then was moved to the offensive line for 2010, but he missed the entire season through a combination of shoulder surgery and a nine-game suspension for failing an NCAA-mandated drug test. He returned in 2011 to start nine game at offensive right tackle. He retained his starting role under Leach, getting the start at right tackle against BYU and right gaurd against EWU .

Spitz' absence the last three weeks, coupled with Wade Jacobson's absence against Colorado, has put an increased workload on one-time backups Gunnar Eklund and Matt Goetz.

Eklund, a walk on, has started the last three games at left tackle and Goetz started at right guard against Oregon. Both are currently penciled in on the official depth chart to start this Saturday's 3 p.m. game at Oregon State.

Spitz' absence has fueled an already interesting mixing and matching of talent on the Cougar offensive line this season that began when Rico Forbes was lost for the season with a knee injury. Center Elliott Bosch is the only hoss who has started every game at the same position this season. Jake Rodgers has started three games at right guard and one each at left guard and right tackle. John Fullington started at left tackle the first two games and left guard the last three. Jacobson, who missed the Oregon game with an undisclosed injury that has limited his practice time, has started three games at right tackle and one at left guard.

The official game-week depth chart WSU released Monday for the Oregon State game did not list Jacobson as a starter. It listed a starting front five of: LT Eklund, LG Fullington, C Bosch, RG Goetz, and RT Rodgers

OL Reserves Taylor Meighen and Zach Brevick saw increased reps this past practice week -- and again yesterday at multiple positions -- presumably as WSU shores up its depth in ight of Spitz' departure and Jacobson's uncertain health status.

The Cougars' large group of rookie offensive linemen doesn't appear to be threatened at this stage with any burning of redshirts. That group consists of Eduardo Middleton, Sam Flor, , Denzell Dotson and JC transfer Niu Sale. McGuire, however, last week left open the door for 2012 participation for some of them "if disaster strikes." Middleton and Flor in particular got in some extra looks last week. DE Adam Coerper moved over to the o-line in yesterday's practice but initial indications from McGuire seemed to point mostly towards helping out practice- and numbers-wise rather than potential game situations.

The Cougs have mostly struggled this season on the offensive line with and without Spitz, and did so again against Oregon. On one play, the Ducks sent only two rushers and still managed to sack Connor Halliday.

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