Dawgman.com Post-Season Position Analysis: Offensive Line

In our fourth post-season analysis - and the final one on the offensive side of the ball - we look at the Washington offensive line, including their early season struggles and their improvement as the 2015 football year finished up. There's no question there were strides made; but overall how did they do as a unit?

Offensive Line (by class)

Siosifa Tufunga (6-3, 314, Sr.)
Jake Eldrenkamp (6-5, 296, Jr.)
Shane Brostek (6-4, 305, Jr.)
Cory Fuavai (6-3, 316, Jr.)
Michael Kneip (6-5, 302, Jr.)*
Coleman Shelton (6-4, 293, So.)
Andrew Kirkland (6-4, 307, So.)
Dane Crane (6-3, 294, So.)
Kaleb McGary (6-7, 302, RFr.)
Jesse Sosebee (6-5, 311, RFr.)
Matt James (6-4, 285, RFr.)
John Turner (6-3, 289, RFr.)
Trey Adams (6-7, 302, Fr.)
Devin Burleson (6-7, 302 Fr.)
Henry Roberts (6-5, 287, Fr.)
Jared Hilbers (6-6, 287, Fr.)

Where does the offensive line group find itself after the season?

Here's the bad news: The loss of Dexter Charles before the season started was a major blow to an offensive line group begging for veteran leadership. In the end, they had only one experienced leader along the starting five - center Sifa Tufunga. Of the 60 total OL starts in 2015, 40 percent were manned by juniors or seniors (Eldrenkamp, Brostek and Tufunga). The other 60 percent were manned by six underclassmen - Coleman Shelton, Jesse Sosebee, Matt James, Kaleb McGary, Andrew Kirkland, and true freshman Trey Adams, who started nine games at left tackle.

The obvious silver lining; Washington’s offensive line will have eight linemen with starts under their belts when practices re-commence in the spring - Adams, Shelton, Eldrenkamp, Brostek, Sosebee, James, McGary, and Kirkland. So just as it was with the Huskies' secondary being thrown to the wolves in 2014, the offensive line experienced similar growing pains under Chris Strausser but should come out of the experience a lot more polished and ready to go in 2016 as a result.

The optimism should be well-founded. Players like Coleman Shelton got starts at three different positions along the offensive line, while Andrew Kirkland got starts at both tackle spots. Matt James went from starting the 2015 season at right tackle to backing up Trey Adams at left tackle. The versatility and ability to adapt and flourish is a hallmark of this particular line group.

And the starts - minus the 12 continual starts of Tufunga at center - are all evenly spread out. That means the gaping hole in the middle is the only real question mark for Strausser to answer before spring begins. Who is going to be Washington's next center? It could be Shane Brostek, it could be Michael Kneip, it could be John Turner. It could be Dane Crane. There are options to be had.

It's unfortunate that the line had to go through the growing pains, but that's what happens when you have little to no experienced depth to fall back on. They had three linemen with starts heading into 2015 - Shelton, Tufunga and Brostek. That's it. Now that they have eight coming back, there should be absolutely no rationale for a slow start in 2016. In fact, with a starting quarterback and running back also making their returns after being thrown into the deep end, 2015 was the year to learn and grow. 2016 is when they should take off and fly.

Siosifa Tufunga (6-3, 314, Sr.) Despite starting five games at left guard when Charles was injured, Strausser moved Tufunga to center after the 2014 season. It was a natural fit and one Tufunga took to well, given his football IQ and ruggedness. He was the one starter in 2015 that started every single game at the same spot, anchoring the middle for the Huskies and acting as the quarterback up front for the OL. His play was very hit-and-miss; some games he was assignment sound and held up nicely as the center of the offensive attack. Other games he would get beaten badly inside and didn't have an answer when going up against a top pass rusher.

Jake Eldrenkamp (6-5, 296, Jr.) After having the last two springs basically to himself at left tackle, Eldrenkamp was moved inside to left guard after Charles had to retire. That moved proved to be a productive one for the former Bellevue star, as he started 10 games there, missing only the Utah State and California games. His play wasn't flawless, but he certainly improved as the season progressed. He will be counted on again to provide stability on the left side while Trey Adams continues to ramp up his learning curve at tackle.

Shane Brostek (6-4, 305, Jr.) 2015 was the year Brostek returned to the offensive side of the ball. He redshirted 2014 and played sparingly along the defensive line in 2013 after starting three games as a true freshman right guard in 2012. It was a productive year for Brostek, who started the first two games at right guard before being asked to cover Jesse Sosebee and eventually Coleman Shelton for five more games. Center is the natural position for Brostek to make his mark in 2016, as his father Bern did the same for the Huskies back in the late 80's.

Michael Kneip (6-5, 302, Jr.) Kneip, who starred at Bellevue with Eldrenkamp, once again provided backup for his teammate at left guard and played some mop-up time against Sacramento State, Arizona, and Oregon State. He will be a fifth-year senior in 2016, providing even more cover to a Washington offensive line that all of a sudden got older in a hurry.

Cory Fuavai (6-3, 316, Jr.) From my understanding, Fuavai took mop-up snaps in one game this past season - Sacramento State. That's it.

Coleman Shelton (6-4, 293, So.) Shelton became the ultimate utility player for Strausser in 2015, although the season started with him locked into the left tackle spot when Dexter Charles' retirement created a domino effect and Jake Eldrenkamp moved inside. When Trey Adams looked ready to go at left tackle, Shelton was asked to move next to him at left guard for two games, and then during the bye week he made his final move to right guard, where he started the final eight games of the season. He made a home at right guard, but with experience at three other positions he could show up almost anywhere starting 2016. He has the talent and leadership to make a home just about anywhere he plays.

Andrew Kirkland (6-4, 307, So.) When Matt James was moved into the depth to back up Trey Adams at left tackle, the right tackle battle between Andrew Kirkland and Kaleb McGary was fully joined. After James started the first two games of 2015 there, McGary and Kirkland traded off starts; Kirkland with five and McGary five. One could argue Kirkland was set to start the Apple Cup at right tackle before an injury during warm-ups sidelined Adams, forcing Kirkland into an emergency start at left tackle - pushing McGary up the pecking order. I fully expect Kirkland and McGary to battle it out at right tackle once again in the spring.

Dane Crane (6-3, 294, So.) Injury sidelined Crane for a large part of 2015, and it's unclear how quickly he'll be able to recover in terms of being a factor for spring football. If he can come back 100 percent healthy, he could make some waves at either right guard or center, depending on where the battles are taking place.

Kaleb McGary (6-7, 302, RFr.) After a redshirt season that saw the big man from Fife play along the defensive line, McGary was eventually moved to offense - and the move has proven to be a very good one. He played in all 12 games during the regular season, starting five at right tackle. He's learning that position at a rapid pace, and should get all the turns he wants in the spring competing with Andrew Kirkland again for the starting nod. McGary has all the natural ability you want in a tackle; it's up to him to harness that talent and turn it into consistent performances.

Jesse Sosebee (6-5, 311, RFr.) After the first two games, 'Boomer' got his starting shot versus Utah State. He started at right guard against the Aggies and also in the Pac-12 opener against California. After that, Coleman Shelton slotted in during the bye week and Sosebee didn't get much time from there on out - save some clean-up action in blowouts to Arizona and Oregon State. He's ensconced as the backup right guard for the time being.

Matt James (6-4, 285, RFr.) The 2015 season started well for James, who was the starting right tackle for both the Boise State and Sacramento State games, and then was beaten out by Kaleb McGary. Without a clear backup for Trey Adams at left tackle, James was moved there and listed as Adams' backup for the rest of the season. Now that he's basically worked all year at left tackle, he has experience at both tackle positions in a pinch.

John Turner (6-3, 289, RFr.) Turner played sparingly, mostly in mop-up duty. With Sifa Tufunga graduating, expect Turner to be in the thick of the battle for the starting center spot in 2016, perhaps against Shane Brostek now that Coleman Shelton has made the right guard position his own.

Trey Adams (6-7, 302, Fr.) If it weren't for Shelton's heroics, the Trey Adams story would have been THE story of the Washington offensive line in 2015. Strausser had never started a true freshman ever, and not only did he do so with Adams, but he did it at arguably the toughest position of the five - left tackle. All Adams did was start nine games and proved he was the proper choice for the role by his play.

Devin Burleson (6-7, 302, Fr.) Redshirted.

Henry Roberts (6-5, 287, Fr.) Redshirted.

Jared Hilbers (6-6, 287, Fr.) Redshirted.

Overall Position Grade

The cliche is that games are won and lost in the trenches, and by that measure it was no wonder the Huskies struggled early at Boise State. They were breaking in starters at three positions along the offensive line, and former starter Shane Brostek hadn't started on offense in two years. When the offensive line started to get their footing, they were plagued by inconsistency and their skill guys couldn't pick them up when needed. They'd either give the ball away or couldn't make a play when required. That's not on the offensive line. But against Arizona they definitely started to move the ball in chunks and that carried over for the final five games of the season. The improvement was there for all to see. And they battled like crazy; Shelton had starts at three new positions during the year, and Kirkland filled in for Adams in the Apple Cup without any drop-off in execution despite never having played left tackle before. That was an impressive display. The future is bright for the offensive line, but the fact is they struggled mightily early on when they needed to be the security blanket for the younger skill players. They get kudos for getting better as the season wound down, but when you factor in the very average offensive numbers it's hard to give this group better than just an average grade.


Projected 2016 Spring OL Depth Chart

Left Tackle 
Trey Adams (6-7, 302, So.)
Matt James (6-4, 285, So.)
Devin Burleson (6-7, 302 RFr.)

Left Guard 
Jake Eldrenkamp (6-5, 296, Sr.)
Michael Kneip (6-5, 302, Sr.)*
Jared Hilbers (6-6, 287, So.)

Shane Brostek (6-4, 305, Jr.)
John Turner (6-3, 289, So.) OR
Dane Crane (6-3, 294, Jr.)

Right Guard 
Coleman Shelton (6-4, 293, Jr.)
Jesse Sosebee (6-5, 311, So.)
Henry Roberts (6-5, 287, RFr.)

Right Tackle
Andrew Kirkland (6-4, 307, So.) OR
Kaleb McGary (6-7, 302, RFr.)

Post-Season Position Analysis: QB’s
Post-Season Position Analysis: RB’s
Post-Season Position Analysis: WR’s/TE’s

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