Huskies Insider Blog

The 'O-Line Shuffle' not a hit song around Montlake

The timeliness for another bye week cannot be overstated.

If, for anything else, it gave UW offensive line coach Dan Cozzetto a time to catch his breath and evaluate some of the team's up-and-coming talent, and the progress each of those linemen have made over the course of the regular season.

And ... something about the break also relaxes the longtime assistant, who can be a bear to play for. Then again, what successful offensive line coaches aren't?

Cozzetto talked to a pool of reporters Wednesday night about some of the recent struggles concerning the guys up front:

* THE CONSTANT SHUFFLING (AND RESHUFFLING) OF PERSONNELIt's been a last-resort move, especially given the lack of offensive-line depth in the program.

Cozzetto said a number of circumstances have forced his hand - with injuries (and other maladies, notably Erik Kohler's extended illness) and veterans' slumping being the two biggest.

"Once (Kohler) got sick, then all the sudden you are shuffling again, and there were some performances that needed to get stepped up for some of us and it just wasn't happening," Cozzetto said.

"So you are put between a rock and a hard place and you say 'OK, I'm going to see what this young guy can do.' I watched somebody else not do it; let's see if this guy can do it, and sooner or later you are mixing and matching.

"Then finally ... I'd better go back to the guys that have been in games and see if they can hold up and see how fast they come along and see if you can put them in a game again, because what you don't want to do is hurt a kid. You don't want to put a kid in and all the sudden he goes backwards on you because all the sudden his mental confidence goes right out the gate. You need to bring them along to where they can handle it mentally and the speed of the game - I'm always conscious about that."

* THE STARS OF TODAY AND TOMORROW ARE NOWHERE CLOSE TO FINISHED PRODUCTSRead correctly, the starting offensive line for 2011 is four-fifths full.

Junior Senio Kelemete will likely continue to anchor the left tackle spot, although Cozzetto said he's like to see the Seattle product get bigger.

"Those things come along in time - putting on good weight, functional weight," Cozzetto said. "I'm not going to ask Senio to gain 50 pounds. But he will be 295 pounds next year, or 300 because he'll be stronger, he'll be bigger. He'll grow with the system."

Sophomore Drew Schaefer's future is at center, even though he has shifted from the middle to the outside - and back - much of his career.

"Drew Schaefer will be a heck of a lot better football player next year, too, because he'll be settled into a position instead of getting moved around all the time," Cozzetto said. "He's going to be the center, and I think he's going to be a great center. I think he's got a future at the position he's playing."

Kohler, the true freshman out of Camarillo, Calif., will likely occupy the right tackle spot (unless James Atoe has a massive physical transformation over the offseason ... then the conversation could get interesting. Atoe is listed at 355 pounds; he appeared bigger than that in training camp.). His battle with mononucleosis left him weakened. He is just starting to get his strength back.

Colin Porter, the true freshman out of Bothell, looks to be an inside guy at either guard position. In the offseason, Cozzetto would like to see Porter improve his hip flexibility.

* BIGGEST DEPTH ISSUE ... TACKLEAs good as Kelemete and Kohler might be someday, Cozzetto is the the first to admit that the Huskies don't have a "cornerstone" offensive tackle - not yet, anyway.

And the lack of numbers at that position are a huge concern.

"The No. 1 thing is that I've got to have tackles. I've got to have quality backup tacklers," Cozzetto said. "I have some young kids and someone has to come along.

"I need guys that can anchor up and sit there set and be able to take a guy (defensive end) coming with the blade down on him and get him stopped. When you've got problems when a guy is running his cage right down the middle of your chest - you are going by that quarterback as fast as he is dropping - we've got some problems here. You need some cornerstones here and when you look at the teams in this league in the top echelon now, they've got some real cornerstones out there playing that right and left tackle spot.''

* SOME PERSONNEL TIDBITS^^ Cozzetto said Porter will see a good share of playing time over the final three ballgames.

^^ On junior Skyler Fancher's slow progress at tackle: "In Skyler's defense he still can't move very good. He has had so many surgeries his ankle flexibility it is tough on the kid so he is limited."

^^ On center/guard Mykenna Ikehara's status: "Mykenna has been a weight issue. For whatever reason, I guess, he was at 275-280 pounds before he got here, and then he got sick and he has never really fully recovered yet. At one point in the season, he was 250 pounds. You can't do that."

^^ On what he wants to see from Porter in the offseason: "He's got to become more flexible. He's stiff in the hips. And he will. He's powerful - he's going to do some things that he's got to get corrected because he relies on his strength (too often)."

^^ On Atoe's massive frame - and potential: "He's on a strict diet right now where we are peeling it off of him and his flexibility because you are dealing with such a big man, we are taking it right down to the bare minimum as to everything he does bending to touching his toes so he can get more flexible so he can move and perform. But he's powerful. If you want a guy, okay we will run power always to James side because he can knock the guy out of the stadium. But right now he is not playing in space very well."