Scott Huff isn’t the least bit worried.
Sure, the first-year offensive line coach at the University of Washington saw more shotgun snaps headed to Mars than the quarterbacks’ hands from his backup centers during the first week of preseason camp.
But if it’s one thing Huff knows, it is being the general of the offensive line. He was an all-Western Athletic Conference center at Boise State (1998-2002), and was voted one of the greatest linemen in school history.
And in his 12 seasons as the Broncos’ offensive line coach (2005-16), he had a number of good centers to get the football pack to pass-happy quarterbacks, including all-Mountain West performers Marcus Henry (2015) and Mason Hampton (last year).
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“I’ve broken in a few centers before,” Huff said. “So we will be all right.”
Huff has a rock in the middle of the No. 1 offensive line in Coleman Shelton, a redshirt senior out of Loyola High School in Pasadena, California.
Shelton has played every position along the offensive line during his UW career, but took virtually every snap last season at center. He is as reliable as they come getting the ball back to Jake Browning.
“Each day, we are trying to help everybody out when it comes to techniques ... because there are a lot of young guys along the offensive line,” Shelton said. “We are not worried about the snaps. Those guys are working hard every day to get them right to the quarterback. It is just something that kind of comes with age.”
If Shelton were to go down, then what?
Matt James, the redshirt junior from Coeur D’Alene, Idaho, appears locked in as the No. 2 center. He has seen action in 17 games for the Huskies, including two starts at right tackle.
James’ miscues last week were particularly head-scratching, given his game experience.
“Sometimes it’s a lack of focus. Sometimes it is a certain step that will make a guy kind of overstride, and they he’ll pull the ball,” Huff said. “There are a lot of different things that go into it, but I feel like he is making some decent progress.”
True freshman Cole Norgaard, out of Clements, California, was moved to center at UW. Last week was the first time he had ever snapped a football.
“He is doing great,” Shelton said. “It was his first week of ever playing center, so (mistakes) are understandable.”
Huff also pointed to starting guard Nick Harris, who played in 12 games last season but came to the UW as a highly-touted center recruit, as a possibility to shift over. Junior John Turner gives the Huskies depth there as well, if needed.
“We snap all the time. Shoot, if you saw how many times we do it a day, it is borderline embarrassing,” Huff said.
“Anybody can do it until you’ve got (defensive lineman) Vita Vea over the top of you. I would challenge anybody to try and do it then to see if you can keep your composure.”
A mini-skirmish broke out at the end of practice on the East Field during live red-zone work. Tailback Myles Gaskin did not take too kindly to a few extra shots near the goal-line, and threw the football at defenders in the vicinity, notably Vea and Lakes High product Benning Potoa’e, who went after the running back. Potoa’e was told to leave the field by UW coach Chris Petersen and did not see action the rest of the day. “It’s like being thrown out of a game,” Petersen said. ... In the final live period for the No. 1 offense, Lincoln High graduate Justiss Warren — Potoa’e’s replacement — got a sack of Browning. ... The team’s afternoon practice Wednesday is closed to the media.