Spring battle rages on at right guard for Cougs

PULLMAN — The assumption for many back on Signing Day in February was that incoming JUCO transfer Robert Valencia would naturally slide into the Cougars’ starting right guard spot, vacated by Eduardo Middleton’s graduation. But fifth-year senior B.J. Salmonson has had something to say about that this spring at Washington State.

We’re a little over a week into spring ball and nothing is settled in the battle to see who will start at right guard as part of the o-line protecting star quarterback Luke Falk (6-4, 225).

B.J. Salmonson (6-4, 300) and Robert Valencia (6-6, 295, pictured above), who has 2-to-play-2, are both getting long looks through five practices with the Cougs hitting the field later today for Day Six.

Salmonson spent much of last season listed as the backup starting right tackle but when he came into the game, he lined up at guard, including a start at Oregon State. So he’s not inexperienced on the interior.  Meanwhile, Valencia was a big recruiting get for the Cougs this past class, having been ranked the No.18 junior college prospect nationally by while playing both right and left tackle positions for City College of San Francisco.

While Valencia seems to be the slight favorite for the starting job for now, he is still somewhat of an unknown having played both tackle positions in junior college instead of guard. Playing tackle was a change for him, too, as he was primarily a tight end before that. Plus, there’s the matter of adapting to Pac-12 level play.

Salmonson is the more known quantity between the two lineman, but that probably means he’ll have to do more this spring to impress position coach Clay McGuire and head man Mike Leach.

For Falk, though, escaping pressure and making sure to get the ball out safely is his responsibility.

“Sacks are on us as quarterbacks,” said Falk. “We have the capability of getting rid of the ball, knowing where we need to throw.”

Asked if he’s at all worried about inexperience compromising the offensive line, Falk shook his head dismissively.

“These guys haven’t played together,” said the quarterback.

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