When you start looking at a subjective list of the most valuable players on a college football team and you get to number seven, those players start to become part of an even more important subset: the Irreplaceables. And one could argue persuasively that Coleman Shelton shouldn’t be at number seven. He should be at number one.
Seven starts at right tackle. Two starts at left tackle. Two starts at left guard. Nine starts at right guard.
The above paragraph is Coleman Shelton’s Washington career in a nutshell. In 2015 alone he started every game for UW: two at left tackle, two at left guard, nine at right guard. You won’t find many players anywhere on a team that got starts at three different positions within a group in a career, let alone within a season.
And now Offensive Line Coach Chris Strausser has asked Coleman to perform what I’ll refer to as ‘The Quintuple’: starting at five different positions over the course of his eligibility. And when Shelton takes his first snap against Rutgers, he will have accomplished The Quintuple in only three years. It’s quite simply one of the most remarkable achievements that will largely go unnoticed after Shelton leaves UW.
“That’s the only position he hasn’t played since he’s been, so why wouldn’t he go in and try that?” Strausser said of Shelton this past spring when asked about his move to center. “And all the same stuff with Coleman (Shelton); he’s just athletic and competitive. There’s been some challenges, never having snapped the ball and all of a sudden you have a 320-pound guy lined up less than an inch from you is a bit of a challenge. But I think he’s responded really well to it.”
There will always be immense challenges whenever you change positions. Just ask Kevin King when he moved from safety to cornerback, or Jeff Lindquist or Will Dissly when they moved to tight end. But, according to Strausser, while there are certainly tweaks and aspects of each offensive line position that will be unique to them, it’s still just football. And with that thought in mind, you could say Coleman Shelton is Washington’s best pure ‘football player’, making seamless adjustments to each challenge thrown his way.
He started 2015 at left tackle and allowed true freshman Trey Adams a soft landing so he didn’t have to be thrown right into the fire at Boise State. And when it was clear the best five offensive line unit was one with Adams in it, Shelton moved over to replace Jake Eldrenkamp. But when Strausser was asking questions at right guard and Shane Brostek and Jesse Sosebee weren’t able to supply the answer, it was Shelton who answered the call.
So when Strausser was looking for Sifa Tufunga’s replacement to quarterback the offensive line in 2016, Shelton was an easy pick. No one could deny his qualifications. He has the knowledge and has been tested time and time again. Of course there will be speed bumps, but Shelton has had a full spring to get up to speed. And given the fact he had to switch positions given just a week to prepare, a full spring must feel like a luxury to him.
If there is a ‘glamor’ position along the offensive line, it’s the left tackle position. They are the ones that are tasked with protecting a right-handed quarterback’s blind side and they are usually the one easiest to focus on for the fan.
But the center is in the thick of everything. They make the calls, they typically make the pre-snap adjustments, they start the play. The importance of center can’t be overstated. Coleman Shelton hasn’t taken a live snap in his college career, but it already feels like he’s a veteran of the position because of where he’s been and what he’s already done.