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2011 WSU DEPTH CHART: Can The Offensive Line Substantially Improve?

Paul Wulff believes John Fullington (left) can be a special offensive lineman for WSU. But what about the rest of the guys?
Paul Wulff believes John Fullington (left) can be a special offensive lineman for WSU. But what about the rest of the guys?

This continues our series of semi-informed WSU football depth chart speculation in which we take a stab at what each position will look like when the Cougars kick off against Idaho State on Sept. 3.

You'll note, at times, that it will look a little different than the post-spring practice depth chart -- we're going to incorporate incoming players and also try to guess what's going to play out in August during training camp. Previous: QBs, DBs, RBs, LBs, DL, WRs.

Without a doubt, no unit has symbolized the futility of the WSU Cougars since Paul Wulff took over like the offensive line. Their numbers over the past three years haven't just been bad -- they've been staggeringly bad.

Just 2.6 yards per rushing attempt -- 120th out of 120 teams in FBS. The 146 sacks allowed are also dead last, 12 more than 119th Hawaii and 30 more than than 118th. WSU allowed more than 50 sacks two of the last three years; the rest of FBS football has combined for just three such seasons.

The crazy part about it is that it runs counter to everything we expected from Wulff. As a standout lineman at WSU himself, Wulff promised to bring passionate, physical football to Pullman, starting up front. That obviously has not happened.

We all know this is the year Wulff has to show that the program is taking major steps forward, and that's really only going to be possible if WSU can get improved play out of the offensive line. With Jeff Tuel at quarterback and myriad weapons at wide receiver, if this unit can just be average at blocking, the Cougars have the makings of a pretty decent offense.

The two deep is loaded with juniors and seniors, including no starters who are in their first year in the program, so inexperience won't be an excuse with these guys. Line coach Steve Morton has had 12 months to work with these guys. The only question that remains is talent. And it's a big question.

Starter David Gonzalez, Sr. John Fullington, So. Andrew Roxas, Sr.* B.J. Guerra, Sr.* Wade Jacobson, Sr.
Backup John Fullington, So. Tyson Pencer, Jr.* Taylor Meighen, Jr. Tyson Pencer, Jr.* Rico Forbes, Jr.
Third Dan Spitz, Jr.* Elliott Bosch, So.* Brent Anderson, Fr.* Elliott Bosch, So.* Jake Rodgers, Fr.*

Level of certainty:
Medium-high. Coaches don't generally make many definitive statements coming out of spring practices, but one of the things that was clear in April was that Wulff was really pleased with the starting unit with which he finished. This included Gonzalez returning from injury to reclaim left tackle, Fullington moving from tackle to guard, Jacobson moving outside to right tackle to take over for the steady (if unspectacular) Micah Hannam, Roxas moving up to take over for Zach Williams and Guerra returning to his spot. Barring injury, about the only change you might see is JC transfer Meighen overtaking Roxas, but I wouldn't bank on it -- Wulff and Morton seem to be valuing continuity at this point, and I think they want to pick one unit and go with it.

Risk of volatility: Medium-low. Again, I think the coaches will be striving for continuity, something this unit has had precious little of over the last few years, so I don't see a lot of mixing and matching for the sake of it. However, Roxas is still a question mark -- not necessarily because of ability, but because of health issues that have plagued him for the last two years. But in terms of guys waiting in the wings who might make some noise and force their way into the starting lineup? Outside of Meighen, I just don't see it. Beyond that, if injuries happen here and there, you're likely to just see the healthy starters plus Pencer and Meighen move around (for example, Fullington would likely move back out to left tackle if Gonzalez went down again). Of course, if injuries reach 2009 levels, all bets are off, and you might be saying hello to Dan Spitz, converted defensive tackle/starting left tackle.

Biggest question: Does this unit even have the talent to be successful in the Pac-12? For the job Wulff and his staff have done at finding talent at the skill positions, they seem to have been unable to duplicate that on the lines. Fullington obviously stands out, but the majority of the rest of the guys are holdovers from the Bill Doba era and a hodgepodge of junior college transfers -- none of whom have truly distinguished themselves. Perhaps Gonzalez and Jacobson are ready to impress after a year in the program. But there's a very real -- and very scary -- possibility that all these guys just aren't good enough.


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