Center: A CF.C fall camp preview

AT CENTER FOR Washington State, starter Kenny Alfred has been limited and in pain the last three years -- yet still performed well enough to be named a two-time Rimington Watchlist member. Offseason surgery has corrected the malady, so how good might he be this year? And backing him up, a rising third-year Cougar who resembles a steamroller in cleats, plus a freshman with great lateral movement.


DEPTH CHARTR-SrKenny Alfred (6-2, 300);  JrAndrew Roxas (6-2, 306);  R-Jr. Chris Prummer (6-1, 269);  R-So. Michael Spears (6-1, 256);  Fr. Sebastian Valenzuela (6-2, 315)


INJURIES:  Alfred sat out the spring following surgery to relieve hip pain that has hampered him for three years. Although he has been the Cougs' best lineman out on the field for some time, femoroacetabular impingement robbed him of strength and flexibility in the hip. He has since rehabbed nicely, has been participating full-go in the Cougs' voluntary workouts and is expected to be 100 percent when camp opens on Sunday.

OVERVIEWOut of the three positions on the o-line, center provides the most optimism heading into fall camp.

Alfred is a well-known name around the Pac-10 and for good reason -- and now he's finally healthy. But the Cougs also have the rising Roxas, a guard last season, backing him up. And Valenzuela, though a freshman straight out of high school, moves exceptionally well.

Alfred is the anchor of the line and has regularly drawn praise from Paul Wulff, himself a four year starting center and honorable mention All-American during his playing days.

What makes Alfred good?  The whole package -- smarts, strength, lateral mobility, leadership qualities, he has it all.

Alfred has started 32 games out of 37 played for the Cougars since his redshirt freshman season and was named Pac-10 All-Academic honorable mention for the third consecutive year in '08.

With his hip no longer an issue, Alfred could be poised to have his best season in a Cougar uniform.

What should further give Cougar Nation optimism at the center spot is Roxas.

Roxas started eight games last year at guard on an offensive line that got shoved around, Roxas included. But in concert with last year, don't forget to also consider what he did as a true freshman.

Roxas started in place of an injured Alfred in 2007 against UCLA as a true frosh. He more than held his own against a veteran defensive package gunning for him as the perceived weak spot. The Cougs subsequently racked up 274 yards rushing, (Dwight Tardy went for 214 hashes) and the offense gained 545 yards. 

Two conclusions -- Roxas can play. And absolutely essential to success up front is an offensive line that is cohesive and working together.

More recently, Roxas filled in for Alfred at center this spring with the senior sitting out the session -- and he turned in some outstanding play.
Facts are facts: Roxas served notice this spring he's a bona fide Pac-10 hoss.

Meanwhile, Prummer and transfer Spears are both walk-ons but should provide some degree of depth in practice and on the scout team, and the Cougs would like to redshirt Valenzuela.

"Sea Bass" has great feet -- great lateral mobility. In Washington State's o-line system, that's big. And his ceiling is a high one.

AN OPTIMIST WOULD SAY:  With a solid one-two punch, the middle of the offensive line looks in solid shape. Alfred being healthy could enable him to see a level beyond what has already been a very fine college career. Roxas looked sharp this spring and the Cougars might have something special over the course of his career in Sea Bass. 

A PESSIMIST WOULD SAYThe offensive line is a unit, more so than any other position on the field. And even great center play might not amount to a heck of a lot if the guards and tackles don't also get it done.

STAR PLAYER:  Kenny Alfred. Solid as solid gets.

UNIT hard to find.

UNIT STRENGTHLateral mobility, smarts, strength, versatility. With Alfred manning the center spot, Roxas could be called upon again to slide in at guard this year.

NOTABLE NOTEFor more on Alfred's limiting injury the past three years, click HERE. 

WULFF: "We only lose one player (on the entire o-line) from last year and seven players return who started games last season, led by an all-conference candidate in senior Kenny Alfred. Kenny is where it all starts. He has the most game experience and is a very good football player. He's going to need his guys around him and we have some experience returning.


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