Mapping out a sea change in offensive line recruiting and performance under Mike Leach and Co. at Washington State

WASHINGTON STATE throughout the 2016 season fielded one of the top-rated offensive line units in the country, according to Pro Football Focus and others. How have Mike Leach and Co. affected such a turnaround up front since Leach arrived in Pullman? And how did the Cougar hog mollies excel in 2016 despite losing two key ’15 seniors with a ton of starts under their belts?

They got bigger.

Like, considerably bigger.

The offensive line of course is absolutely crucial to an offense and team’s success. And it’s clear to see the turnaround that's taken place, and is still ongoing in Pullman, directly correlates with the offensive line play under assistant coach Clay McGuire.

In 2011, the average height and weight listed for offensive lineman was 6-foot-4.55 and 287.60 pounds. In 2016, the Cougars averaged 6-foot-4.42 and 313.05 pounds.

In 2015 on the Cougar offensive line, led on the left side by Joe Dahl and Gunnar Eklund, the people-movers were impressive. Losing a tackle and guard to graduation with a combined 79 starters usually means a regression, but the offensive line play took a step forward in 2016, if not a couple steps.

2011 (4-8)
Average height/weight (20 players):
6-foot-4.55, 287.60 pounds
No. 33 overall offense: 422 ypg

2012 (3-9)
Average height/weight (17 players):
6-foot-4.29, 290.71 pounds
No. 96 overall offense, 360 ypg

2013 (6-7)
Average height/weight (20 players):
6-foot-4.45, 290.80 pounds
No. 55 overall offense, 421 ypg

2014 (3-9)
Average height/weight (16 players):
6-foot-4.81, 301.69 pounds
No. 7 overall offense, 518 ypg

2015 (9-4)
Average height/weight (19 players):
6-foot-4.79, 302.87 pounds
No. 25 overall offense, 470 ypg

2016: 8-4 (one game to play)
Average height/weight (19 players): 
6-foot-4.42, 313.05 pounds
No. 15 overall offense, 498 ypg

The change at Wazzu has taken place in two phases, both in how the Cougars recruit the guys up front and in adding size after arriving to Pullman.

Below are the average weights of the offensive line recruits

2016: 299.33 pounds (six commits)
2015: 291.6 pounds (five commits)
2014 276.67 pounds (three commits)
2013: 298.13 pounds *** (eight commits)
2012: 294 pounds (seven commits)
2011: 299 pounds (six commits)
2010:285 pounds (three commits)
2009: 290.60 pounds (three commits)
2008: 273 pounds (three commits)

The 2013 class has been tagged above because it produced three 2016 starters: unanimous All-American Cody O’Connell (not bad for a 2-star recruit, right?) right tackle Cole Madison and center Riley Sorenson. With Madison and Sorenson among the best in the Pac-12 at their respective positions in 2016, that class was one heck of a pull for the Cougars.

Getting the big guys on Signing Day is important, but getting them even bigger is a crucial part of the equation as well. When it comes to the 2016 starters, specifically the two tackles, the gains after arriving to Pullman are considerable.

LT Andre Dillard– 245 pounds (2014) – 295 pounds (2016)
LG Cody O'Connell – 350 pounds (2013) – 354 pounds (2016)
Riley Sorenson – 320 pounds (2013) – 330 pounds (2016)
RG Eduardo Middleton – 316 pounds (2012) – 316 pounds (2016)
RT Cole Madison – 270 pounds (2013) – 318 pounds (2016)

In the case of Dillard, he actually dragged the average weight of the 2014 OL class down to a Leach-era low 276 pounds. However, thanks to adding 50 pounds since he arrived, the second-year sophomore has combined with O’Connell to form one of the most effective left sides of the offensive line in the country, ably filling the '15 massive shoes of NFL-er Dahl and Eklund.

So the beefier the Cougars are up front under Leach, the better. And there is more good news for fans of the quarterback getting all day to throw. The five known offensive line commits for the class of 2017 average out to 6-foot-5.90 and 309 pounds.

Have fun, rest of Pac-12.

Pictured above: Madison and Middleton vs. Cal

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