Competition is key for UW offensive line

The trademarks of the most successful Washington football teams were a tough, attacking defenses and big and physical offensive lines. The 2007 version of the Husky offensive line could be one of the biggest in the nation and the hard work by a few second-year lineman has made the competition along the line the best it's been in years

Tackle Cody Habben and guards Ryan Tolar and Matt Sedillo put in the work this offseason and they made such an impression on the coaching staff that all three have been running with the first unit for the first two weeks of training camp.

"I went home for about a week right after school ended, and then I was up here the whole (offseason)," Sedillo told Dawgman.com recently. "Me, Juan Garcia and Greg Christine and a couple of the other freshmen took boxing classes in the evening. It was kind of like two-a-days.

"I used to wrestle in high school, so it helps with flexibility, footwork and hand quickness. Boxing also helped with my peripheral vision and most definitely endurance."

Offensive coordinator Tim Lappano said the demotions of several upper-classman from the first unit has caused the kind of competition that he likes to see during camp.

"The young guys have gotten better because we've put them in a situation where they have a chance to be a starter and the guys that have been demoted have picked it up a little bit," Lappano said. "I think it's been healthy. Competition is what you want and we have the numbers now to do that.

"I think we have one more week to play around a little bit, and then we're going to have to get our best five out there. I think you're going to see more than five play. Before it's all said and done, more than five guys will play."

The best five may likely be Garcia at center, Chad Macklin at right tackle, Habben at left tackle, Tolar at left guard and Sedillo at right guard, but players like sophomore Ben Ossai, sophomore Morgan Rosborough and junior Casey Bulyca will have something to say about that.

"I've always gone out there and worked as hard as I could no matter what," Bulyca, who played his high school ball at Woodinville High School, said. "There's always competition and that's why you play football. You love the competition."

"(Bulyca) is probably as light as he's been since we got here when he got on that scale this morning," Lappano added. "That's a good battle (with Sedillo)."

One player who has several years under his belt but is playing a new position is journeyman Jordan White-Frisbee who has played both offensive and defensive tackle.

"It's competitive, but at the same time, I need to overcome my own flaws before I can be put in a position to start," White-Frisbee admitted. "I've been (playing guard) less than a year, so my technique isn't consistent. That's the main thing I'm working on.

"On defense it was all about get-off, staying low and hands. Now, there are different steps for different blocks and stuff like that."

Lappano also noted that the young players did what the coaches were looking for this season and, though they worked hard, some of the veterans – like T Ben Ossai – didn't meet the expectations the coaches set following spring camp.

"(Ossai) did what he was supposed to do, but he was still just a little bit short," Lappano said. "And when we say something, we mean it. He had a good summer, but it wasn't what he was supposed to be back at. And when we ask guys to be back at a certain weight, they have to have that. That's what we expect.

"When you miss by a half a pound, you miss. That's the only fair way to do it, so that's what we do."

Habben is currently running as first-team left tackle, tasked with guarding the backside of promising young quarterback Jake Locker, so the battle between Ossai and Habben is one to watch as camp moves along.

Lappano noted the offense Habben played in during high school has prepared him well for his college career.

"He's athletic, and he's gotten bigger and stronger," Lappano said. "He moves better than I thought he would. He's light on his feet. He's really athletic. And coming from a passing system (Skyline), he knows how to pass-set pretty well. And if you don't do that a lot in high school, you really struggle."

"I feel like my offense really helped me learn early on, but it's still tough because of all the great athletes at the college level," Habben said. "I played right tackle last year so moving over was a bit different. Your sets are different because they're on the opposite side so that was a bit of a learning thing for me, but I'm just out there competing and playing and I'll let the coaches decide who is the better player."

Head coach Tyron Willingham has also noticed the hard work by the offensive line, but it's a matter of them continuing to improve and be better than they were last year.

"We did not have an all-conference line last year," Willingham said understatedly. "They have to perform at a much-higher level. We need to get great play on the offensive line, and at times we did not get that last year.

"Everyone has to raise themselves up to that level. We're looking for the best players. The performance level is not acceptable. That's the guiding factor on who plays what and where."

"I've seen big improvements, and that usually happens when you work hard," Lappano added. "When you work hard, you get better."

And for the sake of Washington's offense, the hope is that the offensive line improves enough to get them back to playing a more physical brand of football of days gone by.

Starting August 31st, the Huskies will find out if they are on their way to reaching that goal.


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