With Riley Sorenson graduated, will Mauigoa, Osur-Myers or Salmonson be snapping the ball to Luke Falk?

BRACE YOURSELVES for one strange sight on Thursday when Washington State opens spring football practices: Riley Sorenson will not be the guy snapping the ball to Luke Falk.

After 34 starts over the last three seasons, the 6-4, 330-pound fixture at center is no longer the man in the middle of the Cougar offensive line.

Those handful of 2013 snaps in three games against Southern Utah, Oregon State and Oregon that burned Sorenson’s freshman season loom especially large right now, but the simple fact is that the Cougars appear to have three interesting options — one old and two young — to take up the mantle in 2017.

Like Sorenson in 2013, Frederick Mauigoa tipped his toe in the proverbial water as a true freshman last season, making his collegiate debut in the blowout over Idaho and following up with appearances against Arizona State, Arizona and Minnesota.

The American Samoa product tipped the scales at 6-3, 289 pounds last season and is the youngest contender.

Meanwhile Noah Osur-Myers will be a third-year sophomore this season.  O-line coach Clay McGuire singled him out for impressive work this offseason in a recent conversation with CF.C.

On paper, the center competition headed into this spring looks to be between these two. But don't forget about the old guy.

That's 6-4, 296-pound fifth-year senior B.J. Salmonson (pictured above) out of the Nooksack Valley. If it seems like Salmonson has been around forever, he has. He grayshirted in 2012 and redshirted in 2013. And that experience puts him in a strong position this spring.

He played in all 13 Cougar games last season at both guard positions, including one as a starter when he subbed for dinged up Cody O’Connell on the left side at Oregon State.  The guess here is Salmonson begins the spring as the No. 1 right guard, with JUCO transfer Robert Valencia hot on his heels in the battle to replace the graduated Eduardo Middleton.

But McGuire has made it clear on a number of occasions -- he's going to play the best five on the Cougar offensive line. If that means a No. 2 guard is the best option as the No. 1 center, that's how it will go. And as promising as Mauigoa has been, the evidence in hand is limited.

“Frederick Mauigoa showed last year that he can hold his own in practice, and he got his feet wet with four appearances. But spot duty in four contests is still a lack of game experience and in my book and it leaves the job wide open this spring,” CF.C reporter and former Cougar player Skyler Cracraft wrote earlier this year.

“Mauigoa is big, strong and athletic. But taking on defensive tackles/nose guards requires more than just strength and athleticism.”

Salmonson, meanwhile, “has become more and more reliable over the years as his number has been called,” said Cracraft. “He has game reps and also has experience taking reps at center in practice.

“The question here at the end of the day is whether Mike Leach and o-line coach Clay McGuire will want to stick with a veteran player, or take a chance on developing a young Mauigoa with the hopes that he can take on some of the best interior defensive linemen in the Pac-12.”

Fifteen spring practices should provide a pretty good picture of how Mauigoa, Osur-Meyers and Salmonson fit into the mix. Spring ball is also a time where some players, not as firmly on the radar, come off a strong winter and suddenly force their way into the discussion. Second-year freshman Joshua Watson could be one of those guys. He has huge hands, a big wingspan and now has a season under his belt learning the ropes under McGuire. He could make a move at center (or guard) this spring.


Spring ball will run from March 23 to the April 25. The Crimson and Gray will be held April 22 in Spokane (2 pm kickoff/Pac-12 Networks).

CF.C will have wall-to-wall team coverage of the spring season. Veteran reporter James Lindsay, out of Boston, will serve as our daily beat writer while Cracraft will serve as an analyst and Zach Anders as a correspondent. In addition, new columnist Chris Anderson plans to jump into the fray a bit.



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