If you want to see a WSU fan cringe, say the words "offensive line." Don't believe me? Close your eyes and envision WSU's offensive line play over the last five seasons. You probably just threw up a little in your mouth.
Washington State's offensive line woes have been well documented and the point of today's discussion isn't to rehash old nightmares. Instead, it's to ask the question, will they be any better this season? Based on the number of warm bodies available, the Cougars should at least be improved. WSU went much of last season with six healthy and active offensive linemen.
By my count -- and assuming all of the incoming freshman redshirt -- the Cougars currently have 14 healthy and active linemen. We don't know how many of those 14 can play at the Pac-12 level, but at least depth is starting to form. Add in five scholarship freshman and WSU is practically overloaded with offensive linemen.
In order to have a non-failing grade, some of that offensive line depth needs to be starting caliber. Elliott Bosch and Gunnar Eklund were WSU's best offensive linemen last season and they will likely return to the starting unit this season. Rico Forbes is healthy, at the moment, and he's penciled in at right tackle. I've read for three years how good Forbes is, but he's yet to make it out of fall camp healthy. John Fullington and Matt Goetz will battle it out for the right guard spot.
With so many returning players playing a big role once again, it can be hard to find a reason to give WSU anything other than a F, or maybe an I for incomplete. I would give WSU's offensive line depth a D as of right now, for two reasons. First, there are a lot of promising freshman and redshirt freshman in the pipeline. Of the 12 offensive linemen WSU signed in the Mike Leach era, I think at least seven will earn starting jobs during their careers, and not by default. They may not be ready yet, but they are coming and that's a huge step forward.
The other reason for giving the current depth a F is Joe Dahl. From all accounts, Dahl would have played last season -- and probably started late in the year -- if he hadn't been on a redshirt season. The staff wanted to preserve his three years of eligibility. Despite being a walk-on, Dahl stepped in as the starting left guard in spring and has taken the vast majority of first team reps since then.
"What I like about Joe Dahl is his bad plays are below average, and then his good plays are good plays," Mike Leach said in spring, via The Spokesman. "(The bad plays) aren't just flat-out busts. They're stuff you can survive. He's got a calmness and a consistency to him that I think has really helped him develop and step in and play."
If we assume Dahl can be at least average and Eklund and Bosch are average as well, that's a decent 60 percent of the starting unit. If a healthy Forbes turns out to be a decent player, all of a sudden WSU's in business. That may be an optimistic outlook on my part, but it's enough to bump the group up to a D.
What grade would you give WSU's offensive line depth?