Countdown to Spring: Question No. 1

WILL MIDDLETON MAKE HIS MARK THIS SPRING?

THE COMPETITION will be wide open this spring across the board at Washington State but perhaps nowhere will the battle be as pitched as on the offensive line. A QB battle tends to get the most ink and the Cougs have one of those in 2013. But no area on the offense will influence the Cougars' win-loss record more this season than up front on the o-line.

1. Can the Cougs' o-line make the grade?

Fifty-seven. That's the gaudy number of sacks WSU surrendered in 2012. Sure, the Cougs will likely have higher than normal sack totals and lower rushing numbers in the Air Raid. That's just a given. But 57 sacks is well beyond the pale.

Mike Leach points out that the Cougs were limited to just six offensive linemen (for the most part) in 2012, and two of them began their WSU careers as walk ons. That the line was undersized was another big reason they were torn asunder much of the season.

WSU loses only one starter, RT Wade Jacobson from 2012. The four returnees are LG John Fullington center Elliott Bosch, RG Jake Rodgers and LT Gunnar Eklund. Matt Goetz also started five games at right guard.

Fullington and Bosch earned honorable mention all-Pac-12 honors for their work a year ago.

HEADING INTO SPRING BALL, the simple question about the Cougars' offensive line is this: Will they be bigger and better?

They'll have to be if WSU is going to post 6-plus wins and go bowling.

On one hand, WSU in 2012 came awfully close to the most passing yards in program history, with 3,965 air hashes. But the Cougs averaged just 20.4 points per game, with countless promising drives stalling when the o-line couldn't open run lanes or protect the QB.

Where some of the returnees line up is uncertain based upon their placing in 2012.

Fullington played both left guard and left tackle this past season, with an emphasis on guard. Rodgers started at no fewer than four spots, all but center.

THERE ARE AT least three who appear likely to challenge the quintet of Fullington, Bosch, Rodgers, Eklund and Goetz for a starting job and JUCO transfer Jacob Seydel is one of them. He will not be afforded the luxury of easing into Pac-12 play. The Cougs need him to be Pac-12 ready now.

Eduardo Middleton earned the most praise of all the redshirting o-linemen last year from Leach. The uber-athletic Middleton was 6-5, 294 last season as a true freshman.

Rico Forbes was a likely starter last year before injuries shuttered his season.

Beyond those three, Sam Flor also will be given a long look, having done some good work his first season at WSU while redshirting.

Joe Dahl is a darkhorse. He's not overly big but he was beginning to emerge in the latter half of the season on the practice squad.

Denzell Dotson and newly-arrived grayshirt B.J. Salmonson are others who could also factor in the battle for jobs this season, Dotson in particular.

The competition doesn't figure to be any less heated later on in fall camp. And while they are more likely to redshirt than not, you also can't rule out Cole Madison (6-6, 270) and Matt Meyer (6-6, 290).

But first things first, and a greatly improved o-line this spring is a must.

Countdown to Spring: Question No. 2
Countdown to Spring: Question No. 3
Countdown to Spring: Question No. 4
Countdown to Spring: Question No. 5

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