Mid-way progress report - Linemen

Garcia and Denbrock (Kim Grinolds/Dawgman.com)

As with Jake Locker, Juan Garcia is an indispensable member of the Washington offense. Jake may be the quarterback of the offense, but Garcia is the quarterback of the offensive line. His calls and his checks and what he sees can be just as critical as what Locker calls at the line of scrimmage.

That's why it's been very encouraging lately to see Garcia, who gave up a chance to become a free agent in the NFL to take advantage of a sixth year of eligibility with the Huskies, in full pads. The Lisfranc injury he sustained near the end of spring practice was a devastating blow to the offense, who just weren't the same when he went down.

Physical rehabilitation is a road Garcia has been down a few times before, so he understood the drill when faced with a choice; have surgery right away, but risk missing a part of the season, or rehabbing it without surgery to see how quickly it might heal on its own

To see Garcia out there does wonders for the morale of the offensive line, and they just play better when he's anchoring things in the trenches. How he continues in his quest to play at Oregon will be an important storyline to watch. The way his injured foot is right now, he could re-injure it at any time just by something as simple as stepping the wrong way - it's that much of a crapshoot. But he also understands the situation and has embraced the idea of taking advantage of whatever time is made available to him while his foot is able to withstand the pressure.

The coaches and trainers have been very cautious in their approach with Garcia, to the point where he's probably missed as many days of fall camp as he's made. It's been done with a purpose, and that purpose is to get him as close to 100 percent as humanly possible by August 30th. I think Garcia is going to reach that deadline, and maybe with time to spare.

But just as it was during the spring, the fortunes of a football player can change in the matter of one play.
Center Greg Christine, Mykenna Ikehara
Out - Juan Garcia, Matt Sedillo

Everyone knew going into fall camp that getting Juan Garcia back for the Oregon game was a long shot, but Matt Sedillo was supposed to come in and ably stand in for Garcia until his return. A concussion changed things considerably for Sedillo to the point where he's missed a bunch of practice time. So it's been on walkon Christine and true freshman Ikehara to handle the snaps along with Ryan Tolar.

Christine, in his third year with the program, has some understanding of the position, but has yet to be thrown into a live game mix. Ikehara could be put in a position to play, but would definitely benefit from a redshirt year to get bigger and stronger.

The 'X' factor here is Tolar, and it will be interesting to see through the rest of fall camp just how much time he spends at the center position, as opposed to his normal position at left guard. Logically, his time there would probably be dictated by injuries more than anything else.
OG - Ryan Tolar, Morgan Rosborough, Scott Shugert, Nick Scott, Drew Schaefer
Out - Casey Bulyca, Jordan White-Frisbee

Taking Bulyca and White-Frisbee out of this mix is huge, because you take 14 starts from 2007 out of play, not to mention your two-deep at right guard. In reality, it appears that the coaches and trainers are moving both along, as both were in pads to start Monday's practice. But if they stay out an extended period, Tolar is the only player to return with any starting experience whatsoever.

Rosborough is a player that played in every game last year, so at least he isn't going to be caught by the glare of the spotlight. And from all accounts, Scott Shugert is ready to emerge as a player the coaches can count on for minutes right now.

The 'X' factor at the guard position is Nick Scott. A transfer from Drake, Scott is a big body at 6-foot-4 and 337 pounds. How quickly he can get his mind and body in shape to handle the pace of play in the Pac-10 will go a long way toward determining whether he will get playing time in his first year. He's got the size to move piles.
OT - Ben Ossai, Cody Habben, Mark Armelin, Skyler Fancher, Terence Thomas, Allen Carroll

This is the one area of the line that appears to have been least affected by the injury bug, and that's very good news. The tackles are the youngest part of the line, and arguably the ones most in need of repetitions and coaching as time draws closer to August 30th.

Ben Ossai and Cody Habben continue to improve and solidify their positions at the left and right tackle positions, respectively. The 'X' factor at tackle is how quickly and how often the two redshirt frosh - Armelin and Fancher - get into game action to create a rock-solid two-deep on the edges.

Mike Denbrock talked earlier in fall camp how he felt Fancher was really starting to get it and that he could see some good things happening. Washington fans should look at that as a very positive development. Depth is being created at all three line spots, and it appears to be quality depth, not just a bunch of big bodies.
DT - Cameron Elisara, De'Shon Matthews, Tyrone Duncan, Nick Wood, Johnie Kirton, Senio Kelemete, Daniel Kanczugowski
Out - Alameda Ta'amu

Ta'amu, who had an issue with his foot in high school didn't seem to be that bothered by it during the beginning of the fall, but has missed some practice time recently - another sign the coaches and trainers are being very careful with players and straddling that fine line between giving them too much time off and possibly overworking them and not having them available for Oregon.

It's too bad, because Ta'amu was impressing people with his ability to play as either a one-gap defensive tackle or as a two-gap nose guard. At 6-foot-2 and 348 pounds, he definitely stuffs the middle.

Although you'd love to allow them more time to get bigger, faster and stronger, the time is now for redshirt frosh Tyrone Duncan and Nick Wood to play an active role in the rotation. Depending on what new Defensive Coordinator Ed Donatell wants to do, these two could either be playing a very active backup role at DT in a 4-3, or could be seeing time at DT and DE in a 3-4. Duncan would probably be the one best suited to switch back and forth between inside and outside. It's something Daniel Te'o-Nesheim has done a lot of, and De'Shon Matthews can do.

It's that kind of flexibility that should allow Donatell to utilize a number of different fronts and personnel looks.

Of course the 'X' factor will be the enigmatic Johnie Kirton. Kirton was a physical freak out of high school, and during one play at Jackson High School he tipped a pass in the air, caught it and was 10 yards downfield before the rest of the game knew what happened. At 6-foot-3 and 296 pounds, Kirton has the body to be able to also play inside or out. The only question that remains is just how quickly he can pick up defense again and the requisite changes to his playbook.
DE - Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, Darrion Jones, Kalani Aldrich, Jovon O'Connor, Everrette Thompson, Pete Galbraith

Like Defensive Line Coach Randy Hart said earlier this fall, if there was ever a time to have a 15-week season (12 games, three bye weeks), it was this year. The reason? With so many hybrid-type defensive linemen, they could lose sleep over all the different personnel combinations. Besides these six ends, it appears that only Elisara, Wood, Ta'amu and Kanczugowski would be solely interior linemen.

Conversely, only Aldrich, Galbraith and O'Connor, who came to UW at 290 pounds but has slimmed down to a trim 247, look to be straight defensive ends. So that gives the Huskies defensive coaching staff up to seven defensive linemen that could play either in or out - and that's not counting the potential linebacker switches to play up closer to the line.

The 'X' factor at this position will be Darrion Jones. Having redshirted after playing as a true freshman, Jones has always carried the physical gifts necessary to be the perfect bookend to Te'o-Nesheim, the unquestioned leader of the DL. Jones needs to step up and be that compliment, be the player that he's always hinted at being. He's trying to fill Greyson Gunheim's shoes, and can make them his own if that switch goes off and he comes out ready to play August 30th.

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