Washington guard started six games as a true freshman and has gotten bigger and stronger in the offseason.
Washington guard Colin Porter’s first memory of Huskies football is the 2001 Rose Bowl win over Purdue.
Porter knows well the history of his position. He’s dipped into the school’s film library and reviewed the play of standout linemen Benji Olson and Olin Kreutz from the era when Washington was known for its bruising running game.
“They are in their own league, and we are just trying to get back there right now,” he said. “Those guys are amazing. That’s what I really want to be able to do is just maul people and drive people off the line and just have people scared to face us.”
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Washington coaches think they are getting closer to that point every day, and Porter is leading the way.
The Bothell High School grad is entrenched as the starting right guard in a line that seems to be stabilizing midway through training camp.
The starting line of left tackle Senio Kelemete, left guard Colin Tanigawa, center Drew Schaefer, Porter and right tackle Erik Kohler has varied little through the first week-and-a-half of camp.
Offensive-line coach Dan Cozzetto said this week that his line is “pretty much” set and that he likes some continuity.
“They are communicating as well as any group I’ve had here,” said Cozzetto, who like the rest of UW coach Steve Sarkisian’s staff, arrived before the 2009 season.
They also are becoming as physically imposing as any in that time, he said.
Sarkisian has said since the spring that a priority for this offseason was getting bigger and stronger, especially up front.
He said he saw that as a natural progression from the emphasis in the first couple of years when the Huskies were merely getting back in the proper football shape.
Three starting linemen have put on 12 pounds or more since last season — Kelemete from 289 to 301, Porter from 307 to 322 and Schaefer from 281 to 301.
And overall, this year’s projected starting line averages almost 304 compared to 292 last year.
Cozzetto, who has coached 16 years at four Pac-12 schools, calls the transformation “unbelievable.”
“They’ve put on good weight,” he said. “You are seeing a different type of body out here now, guys that can run and change direction. They are not sloppy and fat, they are cut, kind of like I’m used to.”
Adds Sarkisian: “This offensive line is by far and away our most explosive offensive line. When they are on double-teams they come off and they are moving guys, and that’s how you become a good running football team.”
Sarkisian hopes that allows UW to continue where it left off in 2010, when the Huskies averaged 237 yards rushing in a four-game, season-ending win streak, including 268 yards in the Holiday Bowl win over Nebraska.
Porter will be a key.
His six starts last year as a true freshman were the most for such a Huskies lineman since Chad Ward in 1997, who was the last UW player to win the Morris Trophy as the Pac-10’s top offensive lineman.
Cozzetto says comparisons to Ward and Olson are more than valid.
“He should be (that good),” Cozzetto said. “He’s got to work on his flexibility, change of direction, but that will come. He’s so strong and he’s got so much brute force that he brings to the table. He just tries to maul you.”
Porter feels it, too. “I’m quite a bit stronger and bigger and I’ve gotten my steps down,” he said. “And I’m able to really drive people off the ball.”
He bench-presses 415 pounds and squats 620, numbers Cozzetto says no one on the team could reach when the current coaches took over.
The hope is that the Huskies will be able to use an improved front to clear more holes for running back Chris Polk and take some of the pressure off first-year starting quarterback Keith Price.
Porter’s happy to comply.
“I love it,” he says. “I want to be a run-first offense and I want to be able to pound the rock and drive guys off the line, because that’s what I like to do.”
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org