Injury woes shuffle Cougar offensive line

BILL DOBA said Tuesday the Cougs will field at least two new starters on offense at Stanford, with return estimates now in on injured WR Chris Jordan and LT Bobby Byrd. The news doesn't get a whole lot better up front as another offensive lineman is "very questionable" for Saturday. There's also some positive injury news, though, as Doba said WSU could get back three key defenders.

Derek Hunter will get his first Cougar start against Stanford, replacing injured left tackle Bobby Byrd (knee), Doba said.

The position is not new to Hunter, a 6-3, 280 pound sophomore.

Hunter as a true frosh at Fullerton College manned the left tackle spot his freshman year, where he was named all-conference in 2004. He arrived at WSU as part of the 2005 class with 4 to play 3 for the Cougs.

Hunter, who scored a 1200 on his SATs out of high school, was a full qualifier who went the junior college route after seeing interest but no offer from the likes of UCLA and Oregon coming out of La Habra High.

The Cougs on Saturday, Doba said, could also move Sean O'Connor outside to left tackle if the situation warrants or if Hunter struggles.

With Doba also terming guard Dan Rowlands (knee) "very questionable" for Stanford, the Cougars can ill afford to lose any more offensive linemen at a position that was lacking experienced depth even when the unit was healthy.

"That really hurts us to lose our tackle," said Doba.

Doba said Byrd is likely out 3-4 weeks.

One big question on the line should be answered Wednesday afternoon. Starting guard Andy Roof will have the last pin removed from his surgically repaired thumb Wednesday and if all goes well, Roof could be back on the practice field that afternoon, although how many snaps he would be able to play is to be determined, having missed the last couple weeks of fall camp plus the first three games.

One thing that could work in Washington State's favor is that the linemen learn the whole scheme under coach George Yarno, allowing each to play different positions. O'Connor could even play center in a pinch, said Doba.

"George Yarno does a great job," said Yarno. "He'll get them ready. We'll show up, I can tell you that. We'll have five guys on the line of scrimmage."

Doba said if Rowlands and Roof can't play, the lineup looks to be LT Hunter, LG O'Connor, C Duin, RG Alfred, RT Harris. True freshman Micah Hannam, a player the Cougs would like to redshirt, is on red alert.

Doba said in addition to Roof, the Cougs could get back defensive tackle Fevaea'i Ahmu, and corners Don Turner and Markus Dawes back.

Ahmu won the starting defensive tackle job in camp before suffering a stress fracture in his foot. Starting cornerback Turner went down against Auburn, as did Dawes, the first CB option off the bench. Brian Williams has started the last two games opposite Tyron Brackenridge.

Senior receiver Chris Jordan will undergo arthroscopic surgery on his injured knee with an initial estimate of 3-4 weeks before he would return to the field, coach Bill Doba said Tuesday morning.

"He nicked up that cartilage that covers the femur, I think they're going to scope him today or tomorrow," said Doba. "Once they get in there they can tell (more on a timetable.")

Jordan has battled knee injuries for much of his career but had gone through a problem free offseason and had made an impact in the early going, highlighted by a three touchdown game against Idaho.

"Chris Jordan has just been a hard luck kid," said Doba. "He had a great winter workout session, went through spring well, worked out all summer didn't have any problems. It really wasn't a contact injury, he jumped and as he turned he said he felt something pop in there.

"The kid's really down in the dumps and I don't blame him, he's really worked hard and he was having a great fall."

Receiver is arguably the Cougs deepest position, with Brandon Gibson expected to start in place of Jordan, while any number of other wideouts could also see their turns increase.

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