This spring, the Washington State Cougars will miss a largely veteran presence on their offensive line. Four players responsible for protecting the quarterback finished their senior seasons in 2013, meaning that the WSU offensive line is virtually wiped clean for a new group of players to step up.
Elliott Bosch, John Fullington, Matt Goetz and Rico Forbes all have departed from the team, which leaves a young cast for the Cougars to train before the regular season begins in late August.
The center position, where Bosch used to play, is one of the most important vacant spots. Snapping the football seems like a trivial action, and is often overlooked as a formality. However, in hostile environments, that task becomes difficult and a veteran player who has worked with his quarterback countless times becomes an invaluable asset.
Bosch’s departure puts the impetus on a collection of predominantly freshmen and sophomores to learn the position and to develop a connection with the quarterbacks. Redshirt juniors Gunnar Eklund and Joe Dahl both return for the Cougars this year, which will help somewhat. Eklund and Dahl spent much of their time covering quarterback Connor Halliday’s blindside, which is the other key part of the offensive line that WSU needs to solidify.
However, the rest of the offensive linemen on the roster lack experience. On the spring roster, the Cougars have six freshman offensive linemen, five of which are redshirt freshmen. They also have one sophomore and two redshirt sophomores. In other words, nine of the 14 players vying for spots on the line are underclassmen in terms of experience.
The Cougars must put experienced players at the center position and on the blindside, because the two players competing for the quarterback position -- Halliday and Tyler Bruggman -- are both right-handed, the experience is needed at left guard and left tackle. The inexperienced players need to get the most repetitions in practice though, simply because they need to feel the physicality of in-game situations. They also need to understand the signals for each play so they can perform when noise and pressure are at an all-time high.
This phase of rebuilding is natural for a team who has switched head coaches recently. Head coach Mike Leach is entering his third year with the Cougars, which means his recruits are beginning their cycle through the program. Once these players prove they have the ability, experience will come, which bodes well for a WSU program that will continue to rise in the coming years.
The team just needs time, which is the same thing Halliday or Bruggman will need from Eklund, Dahl, and an otherwise inexperienced offensive line when games begin.