(79) OL Coleman Shelton (©M. Samek / SCOUT)

Washington Huskies Spring Position Review - Offensive Line

Now that Spring Football is done at Montlake, it's time to take stock of what took place and what it means as the program heads into the doldrums - aka, the summer. We'll do it position-by-position, and today it's the Offensive Line. 

Offensive Line (By Year)


Shelton, with 34 starts in 40 games played, is unquestionably the quarterback of the offensive line. Everything starts with him. He sets the tone. If spring was anything to go by, it was business as usual for Coleman, as the biggest thing at this point for him is health and making sure he hits the ground running at 100 percent for Rutgers. By that standard, the senior-to-be did everything by the book. 


New Offensive Line Coach Scott Huff may have given Andrew Kirkland a new lease on life. Or, he may have just made the sensible and pragmatic choice to put the most experienced lineman looking for a home at the place vacated by Jake Eldrenkamp. It's not as if Kirkland, who has played in 28 games and started 12 of them, hasn't played at left guard before. He has. However you look at it, Kirkland started out spring at left guard, and no one was able to unseat him. It feels like a good fit, based on all observations. 


For just a true junior-to-be, it's still an astounding fact that Trey Adams has played in 24 games and started 23 for Washington. What's even crazier is that Adams is now up to 320 pounds, up 11 since the end of the 2016 season, and looks as good as he ever has. As with Shelton, it was simply a matter of the Wenatchee native getting his turns in, learning what he needed to, bonding with Huff, and staying upright. All those objectives were accomplished, so it was a successful spring for Adams. 


For everything that's been said of Adams, the same can be said for his bookend, right tackle Kaleb McGary. Both have grown up with roughly the same timetable, with McGary a year removed from a defensive switch during his redshirt season in 2014. Even so, the big man from Fife has still played 26 games at tackle the past two seasons, as well as 20 starts. He steered clear of any major hiccups in the spring, so everything is full-go for McGary as he pushes forward toward the season. 


Sosebee is a player that has played in a lot of games but hasn't started a ton. Even though he saw himself backing up Jake Eldrenkamp at left guard a lot last season, his two career starts have been at right guard. So one switch Huff made this spring was to move Sosebee back to the right side, where he competed with Nick Harris for playing time. At this point, the junior-to-be is playing second fiddle to the true sophomore, but Sosebee is a player ready to play. He's done his time. 


Matt James, much like Sosebee, is a man in search of playing time. He's not going to get it behind Coleman Shelton right now, but that's where the junior-to-be from Coeur d'Alene finds himself. Because Shelton is so ensconced at the spot, there's not too much James can do other than bide his time. He has 17 games and two starts under his belt, but most of those were at right tackle a couple years back, so he's a bit of an unknown quantity at center. But he has experience, and he's been in the middle long enough to give UW fans some confidence he can get the job done.  


If there was an upperclassman out of the two-deep mix right now based on spring ball, it would have to be John Turner. Having only played in five games the last two years, most of that time in mop-up duty, Turner did nothing in April to give any indication that he's ready to beat out Matt James as the backup center or either of the four guards in the two-deeps. To paraphrase a former UW Assistant Coach, he was just another guy out there.  


Harris did two things after a 2016 season that saw him play in 12 games and start four as a true freshman: 1) he was able to fully recover from the bruising he took, not something a lot of other true frosh in his spot have been able to say, and 2) he put on a bunch of weight, going from 270 pounds at the end of the season to 287 pounds in time for spring ball. That was huge, and he played like was a little more stout at the point of attack. Harris is never going to look big compared to a guy like McGary next to him, but he certainly has shown he plays bigger than he is. 


Hilbers went on the Nick Harris diet in the offseason, going from 285 pounds to just over 300 by the time spring football started. That paid off handsomely, as the sophomore-to-be from Oregon looked the part backing up Trey Adams at left tackle. When Adams decides he's ready to make the jump to the league, Hilbers is the next guy in line. He's not perfect yet, but now that the pecking order has been laid out via the turns Hilbers received in spring, coach Huff knows exactly what needs to take place to push Hilbers along. 


Ah, the enigma that is Henry Roberts. The Bellevue stud came to Montlake a U.S. Army-All American on the heels of a 67-game win streak with the Wolverines, but ever since he strapped on the purple and gold he has not been able to break through. Some of that is the upperclassmen ahead of him, but Roberts had a golden opportunity to seize the reigns from Jake Eldrenkamp, another former Wolverine, when Eldrenkamp graduated, but instead it was Andrew Kirkland that took the left guard spot and made it his own. Roberts is at 295 pounds now, up 10 pounds from last season, but just hasn't taken advantage of the opportunities put in front of him. He played in just two games his redshirt freshman season, and while he should play more than that this coming year it's hard to see where he's going to make a big breakthrough. 


This will be the second year where Burleson backs up Kaleb McGary at right guard. Burleson gained nine pounds during the offseason, now tipping the scales at over 320 pounds, but he looks every bit the part of a budding NFL tackle just waiting for his chance to shine. But will he? Things were so status quo for him this spring it's hard to see where he's going to get more chance to play in the fall. Burleson got a chance to play in two games last season - same as Henry Roberts - but that was it. When looking for those imposing body types, Burleson is definitely what every coach looks for. Now it's up to Scott Huff to coax some nasty and some competitive fire out of Burleson to see if he can push McGary. 


Kneip, the second-year younger brother of Michael Kneip, another UW lineman who just graduated, kept the lineage alive for 2017. But it wasn't just for show: Kneip dropped an astounding 45 pounds, tipping the scales this spring at a svelte 285 pounds. It means Kneip isn't going to be satisfied with just being a service team rag doll for the defensive linemen, but unfortunately for him he was banged up for some of spring and never really got off the ground when it came to trying to make a name for himself instead of just being Mike's younger brother.  


The lone scholarship redshirt frosh from last season, Wattenberg - like Henry Roberts - came in with big expectations because of his play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. After dropping a lot of weight, Wattenberg was forced to bulk up for this spring, and that's exactly what he did. He gained over 30 pounds, as the official roster listed him at 291 pounds. That's a big weight gain, and while Wattenberg did play a bit inside this spring he sat out a few practices too so he wasn't able to make the kind of push UW fans were hoping to see. It's certainly far too early to determine what the future holds for Wattenberg, but it's doubtful he's going to make a big impact in 2017. 2018 just might be his breakout campaign. 


Clinch put on nine pounds during his redshirt year, so the walk-on from Woodinville played at over 300 pounds this spring. Definitely a road-grader, Clinch saw some action this spring but never really challenged the two-deeps when it came to making the kind of impact that would turn the pecking order inside-out. 

Where does the Offensive Line group stand heading into the summer? 

Just a nick here and there when it comes to the offensive line group as a whole, so they are relatively healthy and ready to go. They have seven returning players with starts, four with double-digit starts, and a true sophomore in Nick Harris that keeps getting better and better. 

The offensive linemen can constantly work on technique and hone their competitive chops via the one-on-one battles they routinely enact with their defensive counterparts. Those are always good fun, and as long as no one pulls an arm out of socket or does something overly cavalier, there shouldn't be any problems. They know what's at stake, and they are going up against their teammates, so health and safety will always be a primary concern. 

Now that Huff has ruled Kirkland his guy at left guard, it's up to the Portland native to embrace it with all his heart and soul. He can pair up with Adams to create a real fortress on that left side if he goes for it. I don't expect him to miss a beat. 

As far as the right side, we saw glimpses of what Harris and McGary could do together near the end of the season, and that work continued in the spring. With a little bigger Harris able to hold his own in situations that were frankly a little dicier last year, that should also allow McGary to focus his attention on protecting Jake Browning's front side. 

Offensive Line Depth Chart

Left Tackle

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

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

73 Andrew Kirkland (6-4, 316, Sr.)

Left Guard

73 Andrew Kirkland (6-4, 316, Sr.)

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

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

64 A.J. Kneip (6-2, 285, So.)


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

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

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

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

Right Guard 

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

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

62 Duke Clinch (6-2, 303, RFr.)*

Right Tackle

58 Kaleb McGary (6-7, 310, Jr.)  

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

73 Andrew Kirkland (6-4, 316, Sr.)

* = walk-on


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