When Don James roamed the sidelines, the Huskies were known for two things; a rugged defense and a powerful running game behind a strong offensive line.
Coach Lambright carried on the tradition after James stepped away, but wasn’t as successful doing it in terms of wins.
Starting with Rick Neuheisel, the Husky team transitioned to more of a passing team, and has not regained the reputation as a power running team since then.
New coach Steve Sarkisian has shown a preference for the pass in his first year, but he also seems to understand the importance of getting the beef back on the lines, particularly the offensive line. Currently, Sarkisian has verbal commits from five offensive linemen for the 2010 class.
The problem has not necessarily been the number of offensive line recruits brought in, but the amount who have stayed with the program as offensive linemen. Since the 2004 class, Washington has lost seven offensive linemen due to position changes or problems transferring from a junior college.
Even with those losses, the Huskies have 14 linemen currently on the roster, with only three seniors, and out of that those three, only one is listed as a starter.
This is where the loss of what would be experienced lineman from the older classes hurts, but it is a young line with nine players who were either freshmen or sophomores going into this year.
Also, the problem has not automatically been talent either, but rather the development of those players. Although recruiting rankings are educated guesses, they can show the level of perceived talent for a position, and out of those on the roster, eight of them were three-star recruits.
Looking ahead to 2010, the Huskies will return four of their five listed starters. At left tackle, Drew Shaefer is set to return as the starter, while his backup, Nick Scott, is a senior and will need to be replaced.
At left guard, the Dawgs lose their only senior on the line in Ben Ossai, but do return the listed backup, sophomore Nick Wood.
The center position returns both from the two-deeps; Ryan Tolar and Mykenna Ikehara. Tolar will be a senior next year, and Ikehara will be entering his sophomore season, but with a redshirt, it will be his third year in the program.
At right guard, the Huskies return starter sophomore Senio Kelemete, but lose the back up Morgan Rosborough, who is a senior this season.
Finally, the right tackle position will return starter Cody Habben, a junior, as well as the back up, redshirt freshman Drew Shaefer.
As you can see most of the two deeps is made up of a young group, and with the new coaching staff have shown some improvement going into this year.
With another full offseason in the strength and conditioning program, we should see a more productive offensive line for Washington.
Still, even with a young group, there has been a huge emphasis placed on bringing in more depth and talent to the offensive line.
Here is a quick look at the five commits.
First up is Colin Tanigawa from Lyola High School in Los Angeles. A two-star recruit known for his work ethic and footwork, Tanigawa has the potential to be a solid guard. Before signing with the Huskies, he had offers from ASU, Nebraska, and UCLA, among others.
The second recruit we will look at is Erik Kohler of Oaks Christian High School in Westlake Village, Calif. The high school may sound familiar to those who follow recruiting closely, as that is the same high school as fellow UW commit quarterback Nick Montana.
Kohler is the star of this offensive line class, listed as a four-star recruit by both Rivals.com and Scout.com.
With good size and decent speed, Kohler looks to be a future anchor for the line at the tackle position. He had a solid list of scholarship offers with teams such as Arizona, California, and Notre Dame on his list.
A third recruit to look at is Colin Porter from Bothell High School in Bothell, Wash. Porter is a three-star recruit with good size at the guard position.
Not as well-known as the other two, he did have offers from two other PAC-10 programs in Stanford and Washington State.
The fourth recruit in this year’s class is Ben Riva of O’Dea High School in Seattle, Washington.
Riva is a three-star tackle with good height and speed. Considered to be very athletic and versatile, he looks to make an impact for this Husky team in the future. Like Porter, was not as well-known or recruited with only one other PAC-10 offer from Washington State.
Finally, the latest commit which has just recently been confirmed is Michael Criste. Criste is a three-star tackle on Rivals, and is listed as a two-star for Scout.com.
Criste has flown under the radar so far as Washington has been the only school to offer him up to this point, but has been getting increased interest. At 6’5, 295 he has good size and potential to contribute to the Washington O-Line.
Going with the assumption that all the commits stay committed, dangerous I know, and that the only attrition will be the seniors there will be 16 offensive line men on the roster for 2010.
Although a position move or two would not be shocking, it appears that the Huskies are building solid depth on the all-important line.
This year has been full of growing pains, but with most of the starters returning, increased depth, and another off-season in the weight training system, we should see a much improved line next season paving the way for running back Chris Polk, who looks to rush for 1,000 yards this season.
Look for that number to be even higher next year as this line gels as a unit.