UW's starting five will be entirely different from the Cactus Bowl.
Here is the glass-half-full outlook for Washington’s new-look offensive line: Siosifa Tufunga, Shane Brostek and Coleman Shelton all have starting experience.
The glass-half-empty outlook: All that experience amounts to just 15 career starts between them.
That’s it. That’s the entirety of the starting experience the Huskies will line up with in next Friday’s season opener at No. 23 Boise State. For perspective, UW lost twice that much experience on the line with the retirement last week of senior guard Dexter Charles (knee injury), who started 30 games the past three years.
And by comparison, the Huskies entered last season with a combined 124 career starts among their offensive linemen.
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The Huskies’ roster is littered with young pups all over — with 70 freshmen and sophomores on the current 103-man roster — and eight of the 16 offensive linemen have never played a collegiate snap.
Offensive line coach Chris Strausser said progress is coming along slowly with his group this month.
“Very slowly,” he said. “I think we’ve got a long way to go … and I think this is going to be a work in progress for the season.”
The line will look entirely different from the starting five the Huskies used in January’s Cactus Bowl loss to Oklahoma State. Tufunga is the only returning starter from the bowl game, but he’s now shifting over one spot to the right as UW’s new center.
“It wasn’t that bad of a transition,” he said.
Tufunga got “a few” game snaps at center as a redshirt freshman in 2012, but he’s mostly played guard in his career. He was a five-game starter at left guard last season.
“Sifa really is the guy that has kind of been the voice of the group … and that’s one of the reason he’s a center for us,” Strausser said. “He takes charge of the huddle, he takes charge of those guys out on the field.”
After starting seven games at right tackle last season, Shelton, a sophomore, is the likely new starter at left tackle. Junior Jake Eldrenkamp has received strong reviews at left guard, and Brostek has been steady at right guard.
Brostek, the son of former UW All-American center Bern Brostek, is an interesting story, having started three games at guard in 2012 before taking a healthy redshirt season last year.
Two redshirt freshmen, Matt James and Kaleb McGary, were battling in fall camp for reps at right tackle. Others will continue to push for playing time.
“We’re still working some bodies around, and really every practice some guys have played more than one position,” Strausser said earlier this week. “We just don’t have the luxury right now of saying, ‘These are the five guys and let’s rock and roll.’”
The best glass-half-full news for Strausser’s line centered on Trey Adams, the 6-foot-7, 302-pound true freshman from Wenatchee. Adams fits the archetype coaches look for in a premier left tackle.
“I hate to talk about one guy,” Strausser said, “but that is one guy that I’m super, super excited about. He’s athletic and he’s 6-7 — and that’s a pretty good combination.”
Senior WR Jaydon Mickens, who has worn uniform No. 4 throughout his UW career, has switched to No. 1. Junior WR John Ross III, out for the season with a knee injury, has worn No. 1 the past two seasons.