©M. Samek / SCOUT

Spring Position Preview - Offensive Line 

It's never easy when two senior guards like Jake Eldrenkamp and Shane Brostek and Eldrenkamp and their combined 35 career starts matriculate, but it's a welcome sight when Washington's returning center, Coleman Shelton, has nearly that many starts on his own. But UW's offensive line just didn't lose two seniors. They also lost their coach. 

Gone is Chris Strausser to the Denver Broncos, and in is former Boise State co-Offensive Coordinator and Offensive Line Coach Scott Huff.  Boise State was 21st nationally for total offense (473 yards/game) and 38th in scoring offense (34 points/game), so they were doing some things right. 

The connection between Strausser and Huff is a strong one. Huff was the BSU OL Coach from 2007-2009 while Strausser was the TE Coach/Run Game Coordinator. In 2010 the two flipped coaching responsibilities until 2013. Then Strausser followed Chris Petersen to Washington, while Huff stayed at Boise State and took over the OL job again. 

Expect the coaching points and terminology to be very similar between Strausser and Huff, so the transition of bringing in a new face to the room should be as smooth as reasonably possible. 

Offensive Line (by year)

Coleman Shelton (6-4, 297, Sr.)

Andrew Kirkland (6-4, 316, Sr.) 

Trey Adams (6-8, 320, Jr.)

Kaleb McGary (6-7, 310, Jr.) 

Jesse Sosebee (6-5, 310, Jr.)

Matt James (6-5, 285, Jr.)

John Turner (6-4, 290, Jr.)

Nick Harris (6-1, 287, So.)

Jared Hilbers (6-7, 302, So.)

Devin Burleson (6-8, 321, So.)

Henry Roberts (6-6, 295, So.)

A.J. Kneip (6-3, 285, So.)*

Luke Wattenberg (6-4, 291, RFr.)

Duke Clinch (6-2, 302, RFr.)*

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Projected Spring Depth Chart 

Left Tackle

Trey Adams (6-8, 320, Jr.)

Jared Hilbers (6-7, 302, So.)

Luke Wattenberg (6-4, 291, RFr.)

Left Guard

Jesse Sosebee (6-5, 310, Jr.)

Henry Roberts (6-6, 295, So.)

A.J. Kneip (6-3, 285, So.)

Center

Coleman Shelton (6-4, 297, Sr.)

Matt James (6-5, 285, Jr.)

John Turner (6-4, 290, Jr.)

Right Guard 

Nick Harris (6-1, 287, So.)

Andrew Kirkland (6-4, 311, Sr.)

Duke Clinch (6-2, 302, RFr.)*

Right Tackle

Kaleb McGary (6-7, 310, Jr.) 

Andrew Kirkland (6-4, 316, Sr.) 

Devin Burleson (6-8, 321, So.)

* = walk-on

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Coleman Shelton (6-4, 297, Sr.)

The undisputed leader of the offensive line, Shelton should go down in UW history as one of the most prolific players along any Husky offensive line ever. Already with 34 starts and 40 games played, Shelton will have certainly put his name up there with the very best in terms of productivity and service. To add to that the fact that he has starts at every position is nothing short of remarkable. He's so entrenched along the OL that the only things he needs to do for spring is get his work in, stay healthy, and provide an example for the younger linemen coming up. 

Andrew Kirkland (6-4, 316, Sr.) 

The other senior Husky lineman, Kirkland has been another versatile player that has multiple starts at different positions along the offensive line. With Shane Brostek graduating, right guard would have made sense for Kirkland to move right in and make that spot his own, but he lost it to true freshman Nick Harris at the end of the year. Left guard could certainly be an option too, as Jake Eldrenkamp is now gone, so Kirkland should have plenty of opportunities to show he's ready to take on a full-time starters role in his final year in the purple and gold.  

Trey Adams (6-8, 320, Jr.)

With 24 games played - and 23 starts - through his first two seasons, the only real question dogging the big man from Wenatchee heading into this spring is, is this going to be his last spring? He may not allow himself to think about the future, but there's no question if the 2016 First Team All-Pac-12 and Second-Team All-America pick has another stellar year he has to seriously think about going pro. It's not a thought UW fans want in their heads right now, but Adams has been on a steady learning curve since taking over the left tackle position as a true freshman. His time to put the hammer down is now. 

Kaleb McGary (6-7, 310, Jr.) 

The bookend tackle, McGary might be the forgotten one as everyone focuses on Trey Adams, but don't be fooled - he had a massive 2016 season in his own right. He may not have the silverware to show for it, but his transition from defensive lineman in 2014 to full-time right tackle with 14 starts two years later was silky smooth. If the Pac-12 was skeptical of Adams and McGary being the best tackle combination in the league last year, they won't be in 2017. In fact, they might be the best tackle pair in the country. With a combined 50 games played and 43 starts, it will be hard to find a more experienced tandem. 

Jesse Sosebee (6-5, 310, Jr.)

Like Kirkland, this spring is Boomer's time to lay the lumber and establish himself as a starter. While having only two starts under his belt, that statistic is a bit misleading - Sosebee's played in 26 games so far in his Washington career, so he has more than enough seasoning to put himself right in the mix for one of the starting guard spots. And with a nickname like Boomer, is anyone going to say he can't?  

Matt James (6-5, 285, Jr.)

The junior from Coeur d'Alene is in a bit of a pickle. He has games (17) and starts (2), but does he have a future? As the backup to Coleman Shelton, James absolutely has a place, and as such needs to prepare for any and all emergencies. All it takes is one play and James could be playing for the rest of the year. So it's very important that James make sure he's always ready, but at the same time he could stuck behind Shelton for another season. Not ideal, but that's the life of the backup center. 

John Turner (6-4, 290, Jr.)

What's even worse for a guy like John Turner is that he's currently stuck behind both Coleman Shelton and Matt James at center, so you'd think he'd just be treading water this spring. But the junior from Los Angeles has played in five games so far during his time at Montlake, so he's definitely motivated to prove a point that he can play. 

Nick Harris (6-1, 287, So.)

Harris was, without question, the most pleasant surprise when looking back at Washington's 2016 offensive line. Considered an afterthought in the recruiting process, especially when compared to U.S. Army All-American Luke Wattenberg, no one expected Harris to even be up for consideration when talking about playing time last year, let alone start four games - including the Peach Bowl versus Alabama. Now people are talking about him potentially redshirting, but I can't see that happening. He's got momentum, and the time to capitalize on that momentum starts this spring. And Harris is up 17 pounds from his 2016 playing weight, so that doesn't sound like a guy who spent the off-season expecting to redshirt. 

Jared Hilbers (6-7, 302, So.)

The sophomore from Beaverton, Oregon is right on track, working behind Trey Adams and soaking up all the coaching he can while also getting bigger, faster, and stronger. Hilbers played in eight games as a redshirt frosh and already up 17 pounds during the off-season, so he will be a guy to watch this spring to see how many turns he gets behind Adams and to see if he gets any challenges from players like Wattenberg for those second-team snaps. 

Devin Burleson (6-8, 321, So.)

Burleson is on the same learning curve that Hilbers is on, just on the right tackle side instead of the left. But he hasn't developed quite as quickly as his left tackle counterpart, at least if you look at games played, and he actually has one more spring under his belt than Hilbers because he delayed his enrollment. Burleson has only been involved in two games to date, but the former basketball player is a supreme athlete, so he needs to fully take advantage of this spring to master his craft and make sure he's fully ready to back up Kaleb McGary this fall.  

Henry Roberts (6-6, 295, So.)

Roberts, a former U.S. Army All-American, has been the slowest to develop of the offensive linemen signed in 2015. Trey Adams has completely lapped him, while even Jared Hilbers has four times as much game action as the Bellevue star. It may be unfair to make such comparisons, as players certainly develop on their own timelines, but there's no time like right now for Roberts to push forward and stake his claim as one of the guards that should be in Huff's rotation come the fall. It's going to start with Roberts making a good impression on Huff starting next week, and he's got all the talent in the world to do just that. 

A.J. Kneip (6-3, 285, So.)*

The biggest news coming from Kneip, the sophomore walk-on and younger brother of Michael Kneip, is just how big he's not. He lost 45 pounds in the off-season, coming in this spring at a much more manageable 285 pounds. That's remarkable, and shows how Kneip is willing to put in the work toward trying to be the same kind of contributor his big brother was. That's great news, and it will be interesting to watch his progress as spring goes on. 

Luke Wattenberg (6-4, 291, RFr.)

Outgoing OL Coach Chris Strausser had nothing but praise for Wattenberg's work during his redshirt year, and the 31-pound weight gain during the off-season is further testament to how hungry the former U.S. Army All-American is to impress and get his Washington career off to a fast start. Could he end up a starter at one of the guard positions this fall? I wouldn't put it past him, but Wattenberg has a lot of competition to battle through to get there. That should be music to fans' ears. There's no question number 76 will be a focus of our attention this spring.  

Duke Clinch (6-2, 302, RFr.)*

The former Woodinville star is up nine pounds from his 2016 playing weight, and is expected to be pushing the interior depth as a valuable scout team contributor this spring. We've seen players come from out of nowhere before to shock, just like Nick Harris did last year. Could Clinch turn some heads? We will find out soon. 

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Where does the offensive line group stand heading into spring?

You never want to lose two interior linemen like Eldrenkamp and Brostek at the same time, but the fact is that Brostek was more miss than hit during his five years on campus. Eldrenkamp's experience and smarts will definitely be missed. He was coming into his own in a big way by the time he finished up at Washington. 

But that leaves four positions along the offensive line that are in great shape, and that should be music to UW fans' ears. 

Starting at center, Shelton is the unquestioned leader and quarterback of the offensive line. With 34 starts, spread across all five spots, the senior-to-be has everything you'd want to have in a middle man. All he needs to do in continue to hone his craft, build a strong bond with Huff, and avoid the injury bug. 

At the tackle spots, UW is rock-solid with Trey Adams and Kaleb McGary, and they have intriguing options behind them. Guys like Jared Hilbers, Devin Burleson and Luke Wattenberg need to really make the most of their turns in April, because the chances they are used this fall are very good - even if it's just in mop-up duty.  With Wattenberg's weight gain must have some strength gains, so he's going to be the main youngster to watch. Could he push himself in the two-deeps this fall? Every indication from Strausser seemed to think so. 

It's the guard positions that will find Huff racking his brains and officiating the battle royales that are sure to take place. Eldrenkamp's departure at left guard leaves a big hole, and there are legitimate candidates to fill it: Boomer Sosebee, and Andrew Kirkland are both players that have played in over 25 games for Washington over the years, so there's experience inside to be had. 

Nick Harris appears to have the right guard spot on lock, if how he finished up 2016 is any indication. He's put on some weight and should be fully recovered from the punishment he took last year. But you've got an experienced lineman in Matt James looking for a home as long as Shelton remains healthy at center, and you've also got Henry Roberts out there trying to make his mark. This is the spring Roberts needs to make a big push forward to establish himself as a lineman to be reckoned with. He came to UW with some hype on him, so it's time to show that the hype was warranted. 

More than anything, how quickly the offensive line group adjusts to live without Strausser will be the biggest key to getting something positive out of spring football. Huff is more than qualified to be Washington's new offensive line coach, but how long will it take him to assimilate? 

As we already talked about, Strausser and Huff were on the same page for years at Boise State, so when it comes to what they want to teach and how they go about doing it, there hopefully shouldn't be a huge learning curve. 

Strausser was a popular coach with his players, so on that score it may take a few practices for everyone to warm to Huff's style, but as UW fans are want to say - In Pete We Trust.

Petersen went out and got as close to a Strausser clone as he could have possibly done in Huff, so now it's just a matter of Huff picking up the ball and running with it. 


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