The Huskies practiced with a remade line all week, following the offensive struggles against Arizona State and knowing that guard Erik Kohler would not be back this week.
As the Washington Huskies moved down the field on their first drive of the game Saturday against Oregon State, they did so with a remade offensive line, featuring one new starter — true freshman Colin Porter at right guard — and two others at new spots — Greg Christine at center and Drew Schaefer at right tackle.
It was the most radical change the Huskies have made up front all season.
The Huskies practiced with the remade line all week, following the offensive struggles against Arizona State and knowing that guard Erik Kohler would not be back this week. Kohler, a true freshman, started against Nebraska and USC, earning raves for his play from coaches, then was diagnosed with mononucleosis. He has not practiced since the Tuesday before the ASU game, and it is uncertain when he will return.
Against ASU, Washington simply replaced Kohler with the former starter at that spot, Christine.
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But with a full week to prepare for the absence of Kohler, the Huskies decided to make some wholesale changes, switching Christine to center, moving Schaefer from center to right tackle, and installing Porter at right guard.
That moved Cody Habben, who had made 31 career starts, to the bench. Habben, who missed spring drills after having shoulder surgery, has struggled this season.
Devin Aguilar, who suffered a hip flexor injury two days before the Arizona State game, was again in street clothes on the sideline.
Aguilar was UW’s second-leading receiver entering the game, with 18 catches for 231 yards and two touchdowns.
His production is being replaced largely by senior D’Andre Goodwin, who has played well the past two weeks in reviving his career.
Goodwin caught 60 passes as a sophomore in 2008, then had just 14 last season, slowed by a hamstring injury in the spring and then an in-season concussion.
But he has taken advantage of injuries to James Johnson and now Aguilar to re-emerge, already matching last year’s total with 14 catches in the first five games, 12 in the past two contests.
He began the OSU game the way he left off the past two, catching a 28-yard pass from Huskies quarterback Jake Locker on the first play.
Kearse rebounds early
After dropping three passes against Arizona State, giving him eight for the season, Huskies junior receiver Jermaine Kearse vowed that wouldn’t happen again.
He spent the week catching extra passes after practice and watching film of Oregon State, and said on Wednesday he felt he was ready to bounce back.
He made good on his word early on as he caught three passes on UW’s first two possessions, including a 16-yard touchdown strike from Locker to put the Huskies ahead 7-0 with 4:11 to play in the first quarter.
Wheaton steps in
Oregon State hopes it can replace some of the lost production of James Rodgers with Markus Wheaton.
Rodgers, who led the Pac-10 in receptions last season with 91, was lost for the season after suffering a knee injury last week at Arizona.
Wheaton, a sophomore, helped finish the win over the Wildcats with a career-high seven receptions for 113 yards.
He had said during the week that he’s “comfortable taking on that role” of helping to replace Rodgers.
If the name sounds familiar, it should — he’s the cousin of Kenny Wheaton, a standout defensive back for Oregon in the mid-1990s, famous for a last-minute interception to help beat Washington in 1994.
But Markus Wheaton, a native of Chandler, Ariz., wanted to make his own name when it came time to pick a school. So while the Ducks showed some interest, he fell in love with Oregon State.
“This was the place I needed to be,” he said.
Wheaton, struggling with a knee injury, began Saturday’s game on the sideline but entered later in the first quarter.
visits Husky Stadium
While meeting with the media at halftime, Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott made it clear right away he wasn’t giving anything away about potential divisional alignments.
“No announcements, just here to answer any questions,” Scott said.
The earliest an announcement on that would come is during a news conference scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Thursday in San Francisco following a meeting of the conference’s presidents and chancellors.
“I’m confident it’s going to end on time and that we’ll resolve all the outstanding questions that we’re going to put before them,” Scott said. “It’s just kind of normal course. I’m sure we’re going to come out of there with clear decisions and we’ll be able to announce them right away.”
Scott, however, did talk about how the Pac-10 is working to expand its brand nationally.
“The first phase of what we’ve done is really about the brand and marketing, promoting the conference differently and doing it on a very national basis,” Scott said. “I know the conference has been seen as strong regionally, but our aspiration is for national recognition.”
He pointed to the conference’s push for exposure on the East Coast, which revolves around TV.
“The level of exposure we get nationally is largely related to the TV windows and the broadcast partners that we have,” Scott said. “The top two goals in our upcoming media negotiations are revenue on one hand and national exposure, particularly for football and basketball, where the national awareness is so critical to polls and standings.”
Scott said he is also working to ensure that all Pac-10 football and men’s basketball games are televised.
“Fans deserve it,” he said.
This was Scott’s first trip to Husky Stadium for a game. He was also in Pullman earlier in the day for Washington State’s game against Arizona.
“I’m just trying to soak it all in,” he said.
• Joseph Gray, a quarterback from Dorsey High in Los Angeles who committed to UW last week, threw for 385 yards and seven touchdowns Friday night in a 56-26 win over Locke High.
• The Huskies’ game captains were senior linebacker Victor Aiyewa and freshman offensive lineman Colin Tanigawa, who is redshirting. They joined the season captains of Locker, Senio Kelemete, Mason Foster and Nate Williams.
Times staff reporter Mason Kelley contributed to this article.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org