Maybe it wasn't supposed to be a position of strength, but it certainly wasn't supposed to be a position where the Huskies were facing dire uncertainty.
But it appears that Washington will likely enter the 2012 season opener against San Diego State on Sept. 1 somewhere in between with its offensive line.
The starting offensive line that takes the field will likely be largely untested and unproven. With the news tonight that starting right guard Colin Porter has been forced to retire from playing because of shoulder issues, it means that Washington has lost one of its most experienced offensive linemen. Porter started 19 games in his two seasons, and appeared in parts of four others.
Part of the optimism surrounding the offensive line unit was the idea of the cohesiveness developed from a unit that played in nearly every game last season. Sure the Huskies were going to lose Senio Kelemete, but they were returning Porter, left guard Colin Tanigawa, center Drew Schaefer and right tackle Erik Kohler.
But that logic kind of got thrown out of whack when Tanigawa went down with a torn ACL in the loss to Oregon State. He had surgery in November. The normal recovery for ACL surgery is 9 to 12 months. So there is no guarantee that Tanigawa will be ready for the opener. It's one thing for a 190-pound wide receiver to come back early, but a 290-pound linemen is very difficult.
So realistically, UW could be without its starting guards. Kohler was so beat from the season that he missed much of the offseason conditioning and been limited in spring practice. He's working out at the second-team right guard spot. There are some questions about his ability to be an average to above average tackle at the Pac-12 level. To be fair, he was probably more inconsistent than any other player on the offensive line last season. He was benched in favor of Micah Hatchie on a few different occasions. There are some football analysts, who think that Kohler might be better suited to play guard.
Hatchie is slated as the likely replacement for Kelemete at left tackle. Once 230 pounds when get to UW, he's now 300 pounds. He moves well and has the frame to play the position. But he has probably less than 100 live game snaps. And he now must protect Keith Price's blind side.
Right now, Schaefer is anchoring the offensive line with the injuries and absences. He's solid, which is what you want a center to be. Sure there were times where he was blown off the ball, but for the most part he wasn't bad last season. He's also provided leadership this spring with all the young players.
So really, right now, if you had to come up with a starting unit for SDSU - you'd start with Schaefer at center and put Kohler or Ben Riva, who's never taken a game snap at right tackle. Your starting guards - if Tanigawa can't go - would be James Atoe and Dexter Charles, while Hatchie would be the left tackle. There is some thought that you could move Schaefer to a tackle spot if need be and play Mike Criste at center as well too. There are options. It's why Sarkisian is playing so many different combinations this spring and making sure Riva, Hatchie, Atoe and Charles receive plenty of first team reps.
Is there help on the horizon? Maybe, maybe not. The Huskies signed five offensive linemen, who will join the team in the fall. Some people believe that Shane Brostek might be the most ready to play if needed. But players like Cory English, Jake Eldrenkamp, Nathan Dean and Taylor Hindy should and need to redshirt.