After starting at every other position on the offensive line the past two seasons, Coleman Shelton takes over as UW's center.
If nothing else, Coleman Shelton ought to be favored to win any game of musical chairs he might encounter on campus.
Shelton’s ability to slide from one side of the Huskies’ offensive line to the other — and everywhere in between — makes him as versatile as any lineman Washington has ever had. He started seven games at right tackle as a redshirt freshman in 2014, and then shifted all over last fall, starting twice at left tackle, twice at left guard and nine times at right guard, earning UW’s John P. Angel Lineman of the Year award.
And the beat goes on: Shelton was on the move again to start this spring, taking over as the Huskies’ new center to complete his personal line dance.
“That’s the only position he hasn’t played since he’s been here, so why wouldn’t he go in and try that?” UW offensive line coach Chris Strausser said.
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Shelton, a 6-foot-4, 292-pound junior from Pasadena, Calif., downplayed the difficulty of yet another move. But it is a demanding position — the center not only has to snap the ball to the quarterback and block the largest player on the field but he’s also responsible for dissecting pre-snap blocking reads — and it’s clear Shelton has earned the Strausser’s trust.
“There’s been some challenges,” Strausser said. “Never having snapped the ball and all of a sudden you have a 320-pound (nose tackle) lined up less than an inch from you is a bit of a challenge. But I think he’s responded really well to it.”
Like Shelton, sophomore Matt James has transitioned to center, and he’s been working with the second-team offense there. Walk-on Michael Kneip also has some experience at center, though he’s played mostly guard this spring.
“We’re still trying to build some depth there,” Strausser said.
Shelton said he’s building a nice rapport with second-year quarterback Jake Browning.
“I feel like we work well together,” Shelton said. “We both have the same goals in mind and want the team to go in the same direction.”
Going against UW’s veteran defense, the offensive line has looked vulnerable at times this spring. Still, a year ago at this time the Huskies were looking almost a total overhaul of the O-line; now they’ve got some valuable starting experience coming back in the fall with the likes of Trey Adams, Jake Eldrenkamp, Andrew Kirkland, Kaleb McGary and, of course, Shelton.
“We have a long way to go,” Shelton said, “but we definitely feel more comfortable going into the season than we did last year.”