Lack of o-line depth reaches critical state

CLAY MCGUIRE

PULLMAN – Offensive line coach Clay McGuire said the situation in the trenches this season has reached a dire level. With only six healthy bodies remaining, McGuire said he's worried redshirts might have to be burned in order to win some football games. He also said if it weren't for redshirts, the offensive line may look much different.

"We got six guys right now," McGuire said. "If one of those guys go down, we're down to redshirts. That's all we've got left."

McGuire admits the offensive line has not played well this year. Washington State is second among Football Bowl Subdivision programs in sacks, allowing more than 4.5 a game, and last in the country in rushing yards per game, at just a shade less than 33 yards per game.

With 329 rushing yards this season, the Cougars are almost 100 yards worse than the next worst team, Tulane.

Last week, WSU ran the ball 20 times much to the elation of McGuire and his offensive line.

"It really slows down the defense," McGuire said. "We've gotten games where we've thrown it almost every play. Those guys can pretty much rush wherever they want because they know what's coming. We've gotten better at that."

It was rather uncharacteristic of Leach not to run the ball earlier this season. Although advertised as a ‘hock it and chuck it' offense, the Air Raid system actually finds its success by keeping the defense off-guard with short screen passes and draws up the middle. The coaching staff abandoned that earlier this season much to the dismay of McGuire, but as shown last week, when the offense finds its balance, it can easily give a defense fits.

"We came out and ran the ball for about five yards per carry and threw for almost 300 yards in the second half," McGuire said. "If we can put two halves like that up front I feel we'd win that game."

McGuire said waiting in the wings are several linemen he anticipates can come in and contribute immediately next season, all freshman making an impression on the scout team and during Thursday Night Football sessions.

"We're not really pleased with the way we've play up front," McGuire said. "We got three guys off the scout team that look like they can compete right away."

Those three guys, freshmen Eduardo Middleton, Denzel Dotson and Joe Dahl, have opened some eyes this season with their talent and technique. But McGuire said the team is looking long term, reluctant to play the promising trio.

McGuire said there's also guys out there the team is currently scouting whom he anticipates will be able to contribute immediately next season – presumably junior college transfers.

"We're planning on bringing some guys in mid-year and get Rico Forbes back from injury," McGuire said. "You're talking about six guys brand new guys in the spring, hopefully, in a perfect world, to go with the five that are starting right now. If we have eleven we'd be a much better football team right now."

Depth has been a question mark for a majority of this season for WSU. The hits have just kept coming for this team.

  • In July, the team learned JUCO transfer Sam Jones did not qualify for enrollment.

  • Also in July, the team decided to grey-shirt freshman B.J. Salmonson and delay his enrollment.

  • In August, promising JUCO transfer Niu Sale came in overweight, and hasn't been practicing with the team for weeks after a brief spell on the defensive line. Sale is still with the team, but is independently working out daily.

  • In August, another promising JUCO transfer, Rico Forbes, tore his ACL as was deemed out for the season.

  • In September, the team learned Dan Spitz was returning home to tend to personal matter and was leaving the team. Spitz is presumably returning to finish his degree in the spring.

  • In recent weeks, senior Taylor Meighen has not been in attendance at practice on in any games, leaving his status on the team in question. McGuire did not mention Meighen in his ‘available bodies' comments.

  • And finally, against Utah, freshman Gunnar Eklund injured his hand. Some reports have Eklund as having a broken hand and will miss the remainder of the season, although coaches will not confirm or deny that injury due to policy.

    That is seven offensive linemen that have left the program or have been forced to sit out due to injury, a decimating number for a first-year offensive line coach trying to instill a system and promote competition.

    "We have guys out there that know they're going to start each week, it's just the way it is," McGuire said. "We want competition, and we hope to have that next season."

    On the field, senior quarterback Jeff Tuel continued to take first team snaps and will more than likely start Saturday in Tempe when the Cougars take on Arizona State.

    At the conclusion of practice, the team again played a defense on offense vs. the offense on defense game. The defense, headlined by junior Ioane Gauta playing quarterback, actually beat the offense this week on two consecutive passes from Gauta to freshman BUCK linebacker Kache Palacio. One was a 19-yard pass to the 1-yard line, followed by a 1-yard touchdown pass.

    The team seems to have shaken off any ill effects due to the shock of junior Marquess Wilson's departure. The Cougars have come out and performed at a high level for the past two weeks and look more focused than they have all season.

    The 1s
    Running with the 1s for the scrimmage:

    OFFENSE
    LT- John Fullington
    LG- Jake Rodgers
    C- Elliott Bosch
    RG- Matt Goetz
    RT- Wade Jacobson
    QB– Jeff Tuel and Connor Halliday split reps
    RB– Marcus Mason/Carl Winston/Leon Brooks/Teondray Caldwell
    X-WR – Dominique Williams
    Y-WR – Brett Bartolone (Andrei Lintz got some snaps)
    Z-WR – Gabe Marks (Kristoff Williams got some time)
    H-WR – Bobby Ratliff and Isiah Myers
    DEFENSE
    LT- Matt Bock
    NT- Ioane Gauta
    RT- Xavier Cooper
    BUCK- Travis Long (Logan Mayes got some time)
    SAM- Cyrus Coen
    MIKE- Darryl Monroe
    WILL- Justin Sagote
    CB- Anthony Carpenter and Nolan Washington
    CB –Daniel Simmons
    FS- Casey Locker
    SS- Deone Bucannon
    SPECIAL TEAMS
    LS - Alex Den Bleyker
    P - Mike Bowlin
    KO – Bowlin
    FG - Andrew Furney
    KR - Rahmel Dockery, Leon Brooks, Theron West, and Brett Bartolone
    PR - Brett Bartolone, Leon Brooks, Theron West, Rahmel Dockery and Marcus Mason
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