Offensive Guards: A CF.C fall camp preview

TWO OF THE Cougs' top three offensive guards enter the first practice of fall camp with a combined 13 starts. And a big key will revolve around the guy who redshirted last year and who, according to WSU coordinators on both sides of the ball, can be special. A comprehensive CF.C positional overview at guard, with analysis, insight, strengths and weaknesses, facts, figures, depth chart and more.


DEPTH CHART: RG:  R-SoB.J. Guerra (6-3, 311);  R-So. Brian Danaher (6-3, 284);  R-So. Kevin Freitag (6-3, 301);  Fr. Tim Hodgdon  (6-3, 285) | LG:  R-Jr. Zack Williams (6-4, 293);  R-So. Danaher R-So. Mike Bruce (6-4, 304)


INJURIESBrian Danaher sat out the spring rehabbing a shoulder. He is expected to be 100 percent for fall camp.

OVERVIEWThe starting positions, with Guerra on the right side, Williams at left guard, look relatively settled -- though the Cougar coaches' battle cry this fall is expected to be an adamant, 'No starting positions, none, are set.'

The interior brings back two guards with starting experience, Guerra (5 starts) and Danaher (8 starts), who went through trial by fire last year. 

Williams could have helped Wazzu last year, he was the best guard on the '08 practice field. But Paul Wulff burning his redshirt last season wouldn't have resulted in more wins with issues across the board, and his value on offense is greater starting this year.

Williams is a hard working, strong offensive lineman and former junior college All-American who comes to play each snap. If you like guys who give it their all, he's your guy.

With both guard and center skills, Williams gets off the ball quick and he's not shy about getting downfield, putting a hat on somebody and trying to feed them a little turf.

Todd Sturdy and Chris Ball, coordinators on both sides of the ball for WSU, have said Williams has the chance to become a special player in the Pac-10.

Guerra has been packing on beef this offseason.  Listed at 293 pounds to start the '08 campaign, he checked in at 311 pounds at the start of the '09 spring session.

He also came on a bit as the year went along, playing his best ball late in the season. He still has a ways to go, but Wulff has remarked more than once that Guerra has "a big upside" and it's not difficult to envision him developing into a solid run blocker. Will he get there this season as a third year soph? That's the question.

Danaher began last season as a walk-on but two things happened; a) guys in front of him got hurt and b) he was pushing those guys for playing time to begin with.. He went on scholarship this offseason.

He needs to get stronger and more consistently work leverage to his advantage, but there's no questioning his drive. Danaher will look to push for playing time at the outset of camp, and the worst thing to come from that is he makes the rest of the unit work harder, smarter and better.

Freitag has been a question mark thus far at Wazzu. He came in injured for his first fall camp and that set him back his first year, he wasn't healthy until around November.  Still, here's a guy who came into WSU after cracking open four of his own helmets his senior year in high school, but he has yet to realize the potential many thought he would show by now.

The primary reason he hasn't is this: Freitag has good feet but where he excels most is the straight ahead type stuff. He has not to date developed great lateral mobility -- and the Cougs o-line system is lateral based.  The good news is he's getting better at it, he can still get all the way there and he is strong as an ox.

If you're looking for more positive signs, Freitag weighed 285 at the start of last season. This spring, Freitag tipped the scales at 301 pounds. Further, those gains come after it's been re-packaged as well, his body fat has decreased noticeably from last year.

Hodgdon, much like Freitag, has great get-off the ball, he does well when going straight ahead. But he'll need to improve on his lateral mobility if he is to make his mark over his WSU career. That process started in January for him. 

Playing the offensive line is an unnatural act, from the way you move to the way you think. It does take time to go from straight-ahead blasting people out of their socks in high school to the completely different ball game that is an offensive line in college. How fast Hodgdon can develop will determine how quickly he can become a contributor.

AN OPTIMIST WOULD SAY:  The Cougs are going to be considerably better at guard with Williams in the lineup.  Guerra started to dump a few more people on their wallets towards the end of last year, Danaher should be improved by the experience he gained last year and while the Cougs don't have great, proven depth there at guard, they have more than last year. They also have some guys behind the starters who can play. Also, Andrew Roxas is probably a center but if needed, he can provide the coaches with another experienced option and swing over to a guard spot.

A PESSIMIST WOULD SAY:  The Cougs got waxed up front at the guard positions, and across the line, last year and while they will be better, they certainly still have a long ways to go before they start winning Pac-10 battles in the trenches. The Cougs are bigger at guard, yes, but they're not huge. And just how much better will they be -- until they prove they can build and hold a pocket for the QB in Pac-10 play, and create more holes and lanes for the running backs, opponents are going to crowd the box and blitz the house.

STAR PLAYER:  Zack Williams.  A smart player with a no-quit mentality -- has has all the tools to develop into an awards candidate at the Pac-10 level during the next two years.

UNIT STRENGTHThe beginnings of cohesiveness. The guards have been together on and off the field for a while now, and with an offensive line, that particular group has to function as five together -- what it should look like is that it's almost choreographed, it should look like a wave coming off the ball. The Cougs might show more of that this year but just how consistently they'll do so remains the question.  

UNIT WEAKNESSPhysical sizeThe Cougs do not have a lot of prototype Pac-10 offensive guards in the system yet, athletic guys who stand 6-5, 6-6 or more. Smaller guards, and a smaller o-line in general, can overcome that with a high level of cohesiveness, but a group has to reach high to get to that elusive point where each member knows exactly where one another is headed, and exactly where they're going to be after that.

NOTABLE NOTE: The starting guards on the pre-fall camp depth chart average 6-3 1/2, 302 pounds.

WULFF: "B.J. Guerra, Brian Danaher..Zack Williams..Those are all players who can help this football team and we need those guys to continue to develop and mature."


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