Yarno grades Cougar OL, calls 'em special

PULLMAN -- George Yarno, the offensive line coach of the Washington State Cougars, watches over his players like a proud papa. An incredibly loud, angry, profane proud papa at times, but a proud papa nonetheless.

Yarno leads the free world in practicing tough love during Cougar practices. He doles out praise when it is merited, but every mistake is critiqued, every move and counter-move is eyeballed, every hint of anything less than 100 percent effort is regarded with utter disdain.

And then ... it is over. Done with. Finished. Yarno, a ferocious defensive linemen during his playing days at WSU and a tenacious overachiever as an offensive lineman in the NFL, turns into a cuddly pile of mush when discussing the very same young men he was screaming and cursing and ranting at just moments before.

"I've got a great job," Yarno said. "These kids just work so hard. They're just great people."

The season is young, but Yarno may be pulling off the most impressive coaching job in his 17 years in the business. WSU lacks depth and experience at the offensive tackle positions in particular, but after two games, the Cougars have passed for 670 yards, rushed for 342 yards, scored 66 points and given up just one quarterback sack.

"George has done a terrific job with that offensive line," head coach Bill Doba said.

"This is a special group," Yarno said. "They really work well together.

"They're competitive. They work well together. They help each other out. They're very unselfish. They really love football."

Likewise, Yarno really loves his players. Here's his quick takes on WSU's starters on the O-line:

Sophomore center Kenny Alfred, a second-year starter who is on the Rimington Award Watch List for college football's best center: "I'll be shocked if he's not an All-American by the time he's a senior ... he may be the most important player on the offense right now ... I think we've grown and matured fast (on the offensive line) because of Kenny Alfred, because he's kind of our mental leader and, a lot of times, our physical leader. … really understands the game of football … tremendous athlete … tenacious … I love to watch him practice. He just goes hard all the time."

Junior left tackle Vaughn Lesuma, a 25-year-old junior college transfer and former Fiji rugby player with just two years' of football playing experience: "Very talented, very raw ... he's going to be a dominant player, it's just a matter of when … tremendous attitude … great feet … he's kind of worldly. He understands there's a process involved."

Senior left guard Bobby Byrd, a fourth-year starter who played tackle the past two seasons: "The anchor of our line ... he's like another coach out there ... he doesn't move as well in space as Vaughn Lesuma, but he's extremely strong. He's more of a mauler-type player, which you like inside."

Junior right guard Dan Rowlands, who started at both guard spots last season: "He's a guy I can put in any position and know he'll be productive. He's a competitive, tough guy -- win at all costs ... as far as ‘want to,' he's as good as any of our guys."

Redshirt freshman right tackle Micah Hannam, whose development has been crucial for the Cougars: "I wouldn't say I'm surprised by Micah, because he's got the two main assets I look for in an offensive lineman. One is intelligence, and two is being tough. I mean, he is TOUGH. This kid plays through every injury, never comes out, never complains."

Hmm. Sounds like the perfect man to play for Yarno.

"All I ask is give me all you've got every day," Yarno said. "That doesn't sound easy, but these kids are willing to do that."

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