MOORE: Guerra typifies crimson upsurge

THERE'S A BELIEF that Washington State might be able to gain consistent yardage on the ground this season. Many think has more to do with the talent and depth of the running backs than an endorsement of the offensive line. But the Cougar blockers are bigger and stronger and projected to be better than they were last year, and that includes B.J. Guerra.

And so maybe B.J. Guerra, the projected starter at right guard on the pre-fall camp depth chart, and his line-mates will create room to run for Dwight Tardy and James Montgomery.

If that happens, maybe the offense will move the chains, control the clock and allow Kevin Lopina and Marshall Lobbestael to throw the ball and avoid being injured.

In that scenario, the defense will be more rested and better equipped to stop opponents, thus keeping the Cougars in games they were blown out of last year. Ideally this leads to wins in games they should have lost, and we all have a merry Christmas with the 6-6 Cougs at the Las Vegas Bowl.


I NO LONGER blow out birthday candles and wish for the Cougs to go to the Rose Bowl – I wanted that once in my lifetime, and it's happened twice, and I don't care that we didn't win, we were there times two, and if Ryan Leaf had been given one more second and if Jason Gesser hadn't been playing on one leg, we might have won them both. That's one reason why the Las Vegas Bowl is at the top of my revised bucket list. Another reason? A trip to Pasadena this year seems a little far-fetched these days.

So that's my pipedream, and if you don't mind, I'm smoking it after talking to Guerra last week. The redshirt sophomore from Moses Lake sounded convincing.

"We've taken many, many steps compared to last year," the 6-foot-3, 318-pound Guerra said. "We're getting physical, moving defensive linemen. That's what it takes to run the ball."

If you take his word for it, the offensive linemen have improved their technique and are more explosive than ever. Guerra himself went from a listed 293 pounds at the start of last season to 318 at the start of this year's fall camp.

"It's upon us to get the mindset to blow everyone off the ball," Guerra said. "It's worked for us so far. We're talking about being mentally tough."

GUERRA SEES A different team, saying: "Everyone's excited. Everyone wants to work hard. We talk about body language: ‘Don't hang your head, jog back to the huddle.' We're making progress."

The offensive line allowed so many sacks last year that it led to three quarterbacks being hurt and forced to the sideline. That's obviously a point of emphasis this year.

"We've taken it upon ourselves to protect the quarterbacks," Guerra said. "If someone gives them pressure, we can't have that."

When Paul Wulff replaced Bill Doba last year, the new coach thought Guerra's size and athleticism made him better suited for the offensive line. So he was switched from defense. Guerra's reaction?

"I really didn't want to at first," he said. "I'd played D-line my whole life. I felt like I could excel there."

He's a team player who ultimately went along with Wulff's suggestion to cross the line of scrimmage and is growing more and more comfortable after starting at right guard for half of last season.

Guerra hopes to play in the NFL someday, and many think his best shot to get there is clearly as an offensive lineman. The League has always been his dream. He watches the NFL Network and doesn't have a favorite team, just favorite players such as Ray Lewis, Julius Peppers and Jonathan Ogden.

They're nasty, and Guerra says he and his teammates on the O-line have gotten that way too.

"How so?" I asked.

"We're driving guys to the ground, we're not stopping before the whistle blows, we're staying on our blocks," Guerra said.

Offensive linemen who are big, strong and nasty? That's a good combination for a rebuilding team.

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