WSU Athletic Communications

LT Andre Dillard a key chess move in WSU win

IN A GAME that played out like a chess match, a key move for Washington State in the 31-27 win over UCLA was the insertion of second-year freshman Andre Dillard (6-5, 270) at left tackle.

A quick check of the stat sheet shows WSU surrendered sacks on its first three possessions.   More telling, by the time Dillard entered the game in the second half, Wazzu had already allowed five sacks on Luke Falk over the first 30 minutes, the last of which knocked Falk out of the game for the rest of the half.

After Dillard came in, UCLA sacked Falk only once more.

For a second-year freshman seeing his first significant playing time with the starting unit, Dillard had one heck of a debut. 

Jacob Seydel looked very capable against ASU with Joe Dahl out, but against UCLA Seydel struggled. (To be fair, he wasn't alone, the entire o-line was under siege in the first half).  But once Dillard came in, things began to stabilize on the o-line and the Cougar offense got in rhythm in ways they did not the first two quarters.

Dillard at left tackle also allowed Eduardo Middleton to return to his normal right guard spot, and Gunnar Eklund to move back to left guard. I don't believe it's a coincidence the Cougar offense converted 7 of 10 third downs in the second half -- after converting just 2 of 7 in the first.

Mike Leach and o-line coach Clay McGuire have offered compliments aplenty on Dillard since he arrived to WSU out of Woodinville High. But it's what they didn't say Saturday night that spoke volumes.

They went to the inexperienced second-year Cougar and took out a fifth-year senior, on the road, against the No. 18 team in the land, with the protection of Falk now situation critical.

So, you know, no pressure.

Dillard came to WSU as a 6-5, 245-pounder. No other Pac-12 school gave the Woodinville product much of a look, let alone a scholie offer.  He chose WSU over offers from Idaho, Portland State and Eastern Washington.

After a redshirt year in the WSU weight room and training table, he’s listed this season on the official roster at 6-5, 270.  Next year, he'll be bigger still, he has plenty of more room on his frame.

But in watching Dillard on Saturday night, he looked right at home on a line where his four o-starters weighed at least 30 pounds more than him. He was very light on his feet, really used his hands well and squared up smartly on the Bruin d-linemen and pass rushers. 

Indeed, by the time the third and fourth quarters ended, it wasn't hard at all for anyone in attendance or watching on TV to see what Leach and McGuire like about Andre Dillard.

NOTABLE NOTE:
Mitch Dillard, Andre’s father, suited up for the Cougs back in the 80s. Mitch played on the offensive line and at tight end.


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