The Washington State Cougars had plenty of struggles in 2012, leading to a difficult 3-9 season. Their biggest issues, however, may have been along the offensive line. The team was constantly shuffling players around trying to piece together a workable unit, but through ineffectiveness or injury just couldn’t find the right mix. This year, they’re working through spring practice looking for the best five offensive linemen available and fitting them in wherever they have to.
Offensive line coach Clay McGuire is looking for anything that will help improve the Cougars’ offensive line, which ranked as one of worst units in the country last season. Washington State surrendered 57 sacks over 12 games last season, averaging 4.75 sacks per game in 2012, both ranking last among FBS teams. They didn’t redeem themselves in the running game either as the Cougs averaged just 29.08 yards rushing per game, also good for dead last in college football.
Their performance led to head coach Mike Leach now infamously calling out the entire offensive line in front of reporters following the loss to the Utah Utes as he verbally berated them (before moving on the defense as well). The team is determined to avoid that same fate next season, but will need to find capable bodies to get that done. That will involve adding depth to the group to help protect themselves from injury, but also opens the door for some heated position battles.
This spring, fresh faces are putting their best foot forward to try and find their place on the offensive line depth chart. The biggest name among them could be third-year sophomore Joe Dahl, a walk-on transfer from the Montana Grizzlies, who has been taking the majority of the snaps with the No. 1 offense at left guard. That would displace senior John Fullington, but McGuire says Fullington has responded well to losing his spot and could work his way back into the starting lineup, perhaps even beside Dahl if both prove good enough to be in the top five.
After watching their offense sputter because of poor offensive line play, Leach and McGuire are determined to get things fixed in 2013. No matter what it takes, the Cougars will put their best five offensive lineman on the field next fall and rely on them to play better than their counterparts in 2012 fared. Will they be able to live up to the challenge?