WSU spring preview: Offensive line

WASHINGTON STATE this spring has talent and experience projected on the starting offensive line. What it doesn’t have is proven depth.

The Cougs have a good-sized number of scholarship offensive linemen and a half-dozen more arrive in the fall. But that doesn’t mean they’re experienced.  First, the good:

Center Riley Sorenson (6-4, 319) along with right guard Eduardo Middleton (6-5, 310) and right tackle Cole Madison (6-5, 303) are all back (note: WSU has not yet released spring weights, all heights/weights are off last year’s roster). 

Sorenson might be the Pac-12’s most underrated center.  Middleton was at times dominant last season. Madison, with half of his WSU career still ahead of him, is ahead of the curve for a Pac-12 tackle.  Sorenson and Middleton will be seniors this season, Madison a fourth-year junior.

There are questions on the left side headed into spring. And no one should just expect WSU to be lights out after losing LT Joe Dahl and LG Gunnar Eklund to graduation. But it is fair to expect that side to be solid (and maybe more). 

At left tackle, Andre Dillard (6-5, 270) as a third-year sophomore has a high ceiling – he was exceptional in the second half vs. UCLA last season.  At left guard, Cody O'Connell (6-8, 346) will be a fourth-year junior and according to o-line coach Clay McGuire, "The Continent" (pictured above) was on the cusp of earning playing time last season.

The conventional wisdom heading into spring is that the Cougs need both Dillard and O’Connell to play to their respective capabilities and show they’re ready to start.  And for those two, plus the other three projected starters up front, to stay healthy. 

But what WSU needs most is for a number of o-linemen to emerge this spring behind them, to show they’re ready to win battles at the Pac-12 level – and to challenge the incumbents for starting jobs.

From this chair, the two most ready to do that heading into spring ball are Cedric Bigge-Duren and Noah Osur-Myers. Bigge-Duren (6-6, 308) and Osur-Myers (6-4, 321) both redshirted this past season as true freshmen.

Other candidates who could put in a corner-turning spring, similar to the one Middleton put in a year ago?  The list includes fourth-year juniors Carlos Freeman (6-3, 303) and B.J. Salmonson; second-year freshmen Amosa Sakaria (6-2, 308) and Davis Perrott (6-4, 270).

When you look at the whole, there’s just not a lot of proven experience top to bottom on the offensive line this spring.  And that makes these 15 practice sessions so important for McGuire and Co.  

WSU returns eight of 11 starters on offense coming off a 9-4 campaign and could be primed for a special year.  A rock solid spring from some of those listed above would go a long ways toward making that a reality in 2016.

WSU lists four other o-line walk ons on the roster: senior Caleb Hancock (6-5, 275); third-year sophomore Mack Hopkins (6-5, 302), second-year freshman Drew Norvell (6-4, 283). and second-year sophomore Chris Paz (6-4, 305). Washington State will welcome six new scholie offensive linemen in fall camp, all of whom will be true freshmen and have signed with WSU: Nilsson Gaisoa (6-5, 295); Christian Haangana (6-5, 365); Keenen King (6-4, 295); Frederick Mauigoa (6-4, 295); Liam Ryan (6-6, 275) and Joshua Watson (6-5, 265).

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