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Myers needs to awaken sleepers
Daunting challenges ahead
By: Richard Linde, Updated 18 January 2004


Photo by Kim Grinolds, dawgman.com

Reviled by fans, a scapegoat for the Huskies’ disastrous running game in 2002, Brent Myers returns from a one year exile at Utah to rejoin the Huskies’ coaching staff as the offensive line coach, taking over for the departing Dan Cozzetto, who will join the staff of the San Francisco 49ers. If the 2004 commitment list for Washington is any indicator, Myers will face some daunting challenges on his return.

Why? Because Washington's last two recruiting classes (the oral commitments from this year's class and the recruiting class from 2003) are filled with offensive linemen who we classify as "sleepers." They are rated two stars or less by the recruiting services.

A sleeper is a guy who has Division-1A potential but lacks pro potential and the elite status accorded to more highly rated players. Although he’s a guy who can come to the fore and become one of the best linemen in the conference, the odds for success are against him and, especially so, for a recruiting class that is filled with questionable offensive linemen.

Seventy-five percent of the offensive linemen recruited by Washington over the past two years could be classified as sleepers. (See Table 1 below). 

Putting this in perspective, Eric Sondheimer of the Los Angeles Times writes, “Most of UCLA's six offensive line commitments have "sleeper" written all over them for a position at which the Bruins need immediate help.”

In 2003, the Bruins gave up the most sacks of any team in the conference and their rushing offense finished ninth in the conference. The UW finished sixth in rushing

Over the past three seasons, the Huskies’ running game has been next to moribund, averaging a squalid 102.7 yards per game.

And pass blocking tailed off last season after a solid season the year before.

In 2003, the Huskies allowed 35 sacks in 485 passing attempts, finishing ninth in the conference, surrendering 255 yards in losses, despite having a mobile quarterback, Cody Pickett, with a quick release and the ability to throw on the run. The Huskies averaged 119 yards per game running the ball, a figure that tailed off during their last three games.

All indicators point to deficiencies in the offensive line.  

Despite a dire need for quality offensive linemen, the Huskies failed to bring in local product, four-star recruit Aaron Klovas out of Graham Bethel. He's ranked as the best offensive lineman from the state of Washington and is going to Oregon. According to rivals.com, Washington State gets the second best in the state, Andy Roof (rated four stars).

Klovas is a member of the Long Beach Press-Telegram's "Best in the West."

Reportedly, Klovas was headed to Washington before Rick Neuheisel was sacked. Neuheisel brought in four quality offensive linemen in 2002; however, two of them failed to pan out because of physical problems. The other two, Scott White (four stars) and Clay Walker (three stars), should see considerable action in 2004. White is listed as a linebacker on the Huskies' roster. 

Three of the Seattle Times' Red-Chip players, who are projected to play on the offensive line, are going to Washington (Tyler Ashby, Casey Bulyca, and Ryan Bush). Red Chips are players out of the state of Washington considered capable of being starters in a major conference or stars at the Division I-AA level.  The Times lists Klovas and Roof as blue-chippers, that is, players from the state of Washington that are considered capable of stardom in a major conference such as the Pac-10.

Four of the Times' blue-chip student athletes have committed to the UW, namely, Matt Tuiasosopo (QB), Keauntea Bankhead (WR, DB), Johnny Kirton (RB), and Walter Winter (LB). USC legacy-player Chancellor Young, son of Charlie Young, has not committed. Tuiasosopo is also a member of the Long Beach Press-Telegram's "Best in the West."

As of now, securing commitments from half of the Times' blue-chip list qualifies as good news for the Dawgs. However...

Using average stars as a metric, our table below ranks the Huskies next to last in the conference in recruiting offensive linemen over the last two years.

Unfortunately, earthy statistics such as those shown in the table, like the proverbial chicken coming home to bear roost and the purse that can't be made from a sow's ear, correlate with last year's standings in the Pac-10, particularly at the top.  

In other words, I'm concerned.

The Huskies may sign another offensive lineman or two before letter-of-intent day on February 4, and improve their status. According to the recruiting services, they are pursuing a three-star product listed as a soft commit to USC. Rivals.com ranks the Huskies' overall class as seventeenth in the nation, with the UW trailing USC, UCLA and Oregon in the Pac-10.

As of now, with these six sleepers from the last two recruiting seasons, OL coach Myers has his work cut out for him. However...

Of all the positions in college football, the offensive lineman is the most malleable. I'll sleep on that.

Table 1. Offensive linemen recruited in 2003 plus the offensive linemen committing in 2004. A sleeper is rated two stars or less. The Pac-10 ratings were taken from the insiders.com.

Team

Average Stars Recruits Sleepers % Sleepers
U$C 3.5 8 1 13%
WSU 3 7 0 0%
Tree 2.857 7 3 43%
UCLA 2.625 8 4 50%
Whoregon 2.625 8 4 50%
ASU 2.6 5 2 40%
OSU 2.4 5 3 60%
Cal 2.3 8 5 63%
UW 2.125 8 6 75%
CasabaU 1.857 7 7 100%

Washington's Oral Commitments (Offensive Linemen), 2004

Tyler Ashby, OL, 6-4, 290, Seattle (Ballard) (2 stars; Red Chip)

Casey Bulyca, OL, 6-7, 285, Woodinville HS (3 stars; Red Chip)

Ryan Bush, OL, 6-4, 285, Puyallup (Rogers) (2 stars; Red Chip)

Nathan Flowers, OL, 6-4, 280, Chula Vista (Calif.) HS (2 stars)

Javon O'Connor, OL, 6-5, 295, Los Angeles HS (2 stars)

2003 Season Recruits

Erick Berglund, OL, 6-7, 278, Beaverton, Oregon, (1 star)

Juan Garcia, OL, 6-3, 275, Yakima, Washington (2 stars)

Chad Macklin, OL, 6-8, 275, Visalia, California (3 stars)

 

Richard Linde (a.k.a., Malamute) can be reached at malamute@4malamute.com

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