Is Joe Dahl one to snap WSU's NFL OL drought?

PULLMAN — Washington State hasn't produced a bona fide NFL offensive lineman since 1998 Rose Bowler Cory Withrow. So forecasting big things for WSU junior left tackle Joe Dahl may be a bit premature. But there's no getting around the fact he's having an excellent season. And with another year of growth, plus the type of mentality Joe Salave’a says the NFL demands, the possibilities hold intrigue.

“I think he has that," Salave'a said of the self motivation and ability to perform under duress that the NFL requires of its linemen.

“You’ve got to be tough. That’s flat out ... there’s no finesse in this game. This game here (in the trenches) is all about the physical aspect. That’s why some of the most talented kids don’t make it.

“I think Joe is one of those kids that grew and that bloomed, and he’ll continue to grow so long as he has that mindset of wanting to learn and grow,” Salave’a said. “He’s one of those athletic kids that has good balance and has the tangibles to be an even better lineman moving forward.”

Salave'a, WSU's defensive line coach, knows what he's talking about when it comes to the NFL. He spent nine seasons in the league.

Coming into the Oregon State game, the 6-4, 303 pound Dahl had won a team-leading five "Bone Awards" for grading out the highest among WSU's offensive linemen on game days. Last month, at the midway point of the campaign, he was named first-team mid-season All-Pac-12 by Phil Steele Magazine.

“He obviously has a whole year he needs to continue to develop," says WSU's head strength and conditioning coach Jason Loscalzo. "I don’t think he’s NFL ready by any means right now. He’s still got a ways to go, but he’s on the right track.”

He said Dahl reminds him of some of the hosses he worked with at Boston College, including NFL players Anthony Castonzo, Gosder Cherilus, Matt Tennant and Thomas Claiborne.

WSU offensive line coach Clay McGuire says Dahl has improved dramatically each year he's been at WSU since walking on in 2012 after a season at Montana.

“He’s always been a consistent player, and one thing I’ve seen is the consistency to play at a higher level," McGuire says.

Since breaking into the starting lineup at left guard in 2013, Dahl has generally played between well and good "but now he’s starting to play at a high level,” McGuire said.

McGuire said Dahl is stringing together exceptional games in a row -- something that Dahl himself acknowledges in a low-key kind of way.

“Last year, I would have flashes of good plays here and there, and then I’d also have poor plays throughout the game, so I think this year I’ve done a better job of just being more consistent throughout the entire game,” Dahl said.

Being understated is something of a Dahl trait. He goes about his business of improving without calling too much attention to himself, says McGuire.

“Joe comes out here every day, and he’s always got a good attitude. Rarely have I ever seen Joe in a bad mood,” McGuire said. “He’s always got a good attitude, a good demeanor about him. He’s not a rah-rah guy, but he gets out there and gets his job done, and sometimes you take it for granted because he’s quietly getting his job done in a good way.”

Loscalzo believes Dahl can improve his pro chances by assuming a more vocal leadership role.

“They (the NFL) take guys that lead, they take guys that take charge, they take guys that elevate people around them. What he’s going to need to do is continue to work on elevating people around him, elevating everybody, elevating their intensity, elevating their standards.”

Dahl can match up physically with anybody in the Pac-12, Loscalzo assures.

“For him, and what we do, Joe is almost the complete package. He moves well, he’s big, he’s strong, great work ethic. I’d like to see him work on his leadership skills more because he has it in him,” Loscalzo said.

  • Dahl and the Cougar o-line were crowded out of the limelight after the Cougs' 39-32 win at Oregon State given Luke Falk's day plus improved performances by the defense and special teams. But if you have the game on your DVR, go back and look at what Dahl and the o-line did. The smile on your face will turn into a grin when you remember there are no seniors in that starting five -- nor on the two-deeps on the depth chart release for the OSU game.
  • As a 240-pound high school senior, Dahl received a scholarship offer from Paul Wulff at the very end of the 2011 recruiting cycle, but he had already committed verbally to Montana so stuck with the Griz. After a redshirt freshman season in Missoula he decided to walk on at WSU in 2012. He was put on scholarship at WSU last season.
  • He was a three-year letterwinner in both football and basketball at Spokane's University High, where his head football coach was former WSU, Stanford, Notre Dame and Washington assistant coach Bill Dietrich. As a senior, Dahl was first-team all-state at defensive end and first-team all-league at both OL and DL.
  • One of Dahl's roommates and best friends is Connor Halliday. Asked to describe the record-setting QB, Dahl told CF.C earlier this season, "He’s a character. He’s great to get to know. He’s a neat freak. He’s the only one in the house who will get on you if you’re leaving a mess around."

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