Shuffling the Line

With so many returning starters on the offensive line they were supposed to be the strength for the Washington Huskies this year. They were going to put Jake Locker and the young skill players on their backs, but not only has the line given up 14 sacks through five games, the run game is only averaging 103.6 yards per game.

Last year with Locker and Louis Rankin, Washington ran for over 203 yards a game, second only to Oregon in the Pac-10.

Losing an entire football field's worth of yardage has caused the offense to have problems scoring consistently.

The recent news of Casey Bulyca having surgery to his knee creates even more question marks for the offensive line. Since Buylca is in his last year of eligibility he tried to play through the pain, but during their last trip to Arizona it became apparent the injury was just too severe. "He's been hobbled for a couple weeks, it's been bothering him," said UW Offensive Coordinator Tim Lappano Tuesday. "He's been grinding through it, he knows he hasn't been really effective with it and its come to a point where it isn't helping anybody." With a fully healthy replacement in Ryan Tolar - who started 12 games for Washington in 2007 - the hope is that the line will be able to function more effectively. With guard being such a physical position depth becomes a genuine concern.

"He's (Ryan Tolar) kind of been our security blanket all year long in case something went wrong on the inside," Offensive Line Coach Mike Denbrock told "As things have tended to go this year, nothing seems to exactly fall into place the way you would like it to, so having him is a luxury that we've had since the beginning of the year and his experience in that he has had already started a bunch of games since he's been here will be helpful."

With Jordan White-Frisbee anchoring the left guard position and Tolar taking over for Bulyca, Matt Sedillo now steps into the role of security blanket. After Sedillo, Morgan Rosborough is the only guard to have ever seen playing time.

Bulyca's play hasn't met everyone's expectations on the field but his leadership has affected all the guys on the offense. With so many young guys playing this year and Locker being out, Bulyca's leadership has had a real impact.

"It affects it a lot (chemistry). He is one of the veteran guys on the line and he brings a lot to this team as far as leadership," said UW running back Willie Griffin. "I feel that whoever steps in behind him is still going to give us a good look. As a team we have good chemistry with each other so it does hurt that Casey is gone but whoever steps up will get it done."

"With someone like Casey whose played so much him being gone means there might be something the other guy doesn't see or doesn't know because of the experience level," added Skyler Fancher, one of Bulyca's teammates along the line. "Ryan Tolar obliviously played all last year and he's pretty good at calling out the same calls but Casey had a little extra to it. It's kind of hard to put your finger on it; just a little extra call or take a little bigger split or he might be like 'he's coming, he's going' - stuff like that really affects you."

Both Griffin and Terrance Dailey will be counted on this Saturday against Oregon State to finally get the run game going. "We haven't changed anything, we're still running our same plays," Griffin said. "It's basically just as a running back going out there and taking what the defense gives you. Every play isn't going for the big ten, or maybe twenty yards, but you still have to take what they give you and eventually by the end of the game something big will happen."

One thing he and the coaches all agree on is the need to open up the run game against the Beavers. OSU is fifth in the Pac-10, allowing 130.2 rushing yards a game. "Well that's something this football team needs to have happen," Denbrock said. "I think we definitely need to find a way to run the football. That obviously starts with the guys up front. We need to do a better job of blocking people and moving people around. We have to make the running backs' jobs easier than we have."

With a redshirt freshman quarterback and running back getting the starting nod this week, the line's play will be even more important in making the offense go. Bulyca's absence means another lineman will need to step up and fill his leadership role. Juan Garcia would be the most likely fit. With his collegiate career winding down, Garcia and the other upperclassmen can hopefully provide extra motivation for the offense, as well as leadership by example. Top Stories