Rico Forbes has been in Pullman for two years, and some of those who watch practice regularly have gone so far as to suggest that he's the most talented offensive lineman on the roster.
Said offensive line coach Clay McGuire, during spring practices in 2012:
"He's got tremendous upside, he's got a tremendous frame. He's what you're looking for when you go out recruiting. I've been really pleasantly surprised with how he's picked up the system. He's not there yet, but he's been working hard and he's really doing some good stuff right now. He's playing real well and if he can reach his potential, he's definitely got a shot."
But the hulking tackle has yet to play even one snap of meaningful football for WSU. How can that be, at a school with such an obvious need at that position?
Let's get to know Rico Forbes.
Forbes' WSU Career
Paul Wulff had this ideal plan for all his junior college transfers where he'd redshirt them in order to give them a year to adjust to big-time college football. A lot of junior college kids aren't as ready for the step up in training demands and academic rigor as they think they are, so rather than throw them right into the mix and probably only get one strong year out of them before they graduate, he preferred to redshirt as many as he could.
Now, he didn't always stick to that plan. But in this case, Wulff stuck to his guns and allowed Forbes to redshirt, a decision made in part because David Gonzales and Wade Jacobson looked able to capably man the tackles. Rather than waste a year making only spot appearances, Wulff figured there was greater value in a redshirt.
Forbes reluctantly agreed, but after a year in Pullman, he accepted it as the best decision:
"The whole redshirting thing, I didn't want to have to be a part of it, but experiencing it helped me develop a whole lot," Forbes said [during spring practices in 2012]. "Where I thought I was initially compared to where I was after redshirting, it helped me a whole lot. I wasn't pleased with the coaches' decision but at the end of the day, when I looked at it and talked to my parents and talked to my coaches, it was the best thing for me."
It was great in theory. And it certainly was well intentioned. But when Forbes suffered a leg injury last August and was lost for the season before it even began, it didn't look quite so smart: Because that redshirt was voluntary and not driven by injury, Forbes likely has no shot at getting back that season through a hardship waiver.
He'll have to make the most out of 2013.
After missing virtually all football-related activities last fall, Forbes returned for spring drills. He made it through the workouts unscathed, but there was a lot of rust to shake off, not to mention his development being stunted by not having played since the previous spring.
Nonetheless, Forbes was listed as the starting right tackle on the pre-spring depth chart. That either says a lot about Forbes or the competition. I'll let you decide.
Mike Leach had the following observation after the third day of spring practices:
"I think he looks decent, but he's not there. I think he looks decent and he's off to a good start and has a great attitude and wants to get out there and compete and play."
What to expect in 2013
Barring another injury, Forbes almost certainly will be your starting right tackle against Auburn. Leach loves huge offensive lineman, and Forbes fits the prototype -- as McGuire noted above. It sounds as if he's still somewhat raw, which isn't a shock given his lack of game experience over the last two years, but he's got as much natural ability as anyone on the team.
If all goes well, he could be the anchor of a much-improved offensive line. If he doesn't develop ... well, let's just try to be optimistic today, OK?
Forbes does not appear to use Twitter.