Important to Washington’s hopes of contending in the Pac-12 next fall is steadier play from its offensive line. And while it’s only the second week of spring practice, troubling trends continue for the Huskies’ hard-luck line.
Ogle all you want at Myles Gaskin’s freshman rushing totals. Say what you will about the blossoming connection between Jake Browning and John Ross III. Certainly, the Huskies need those three stars to shine for the offense to break through in 2016.
What is just as important to Washington’s hopes of contending in the Pac-12 next fall is steadier play from its offensive line. And while it’s only the second week of spring practice, and there are still 148 days until the Sept. 3 season opener against Rutgers, troubling trends continue for the Huskies’ hard-luck line.
Kaleb McGary, the projected starter at right tackle, hurt his left knee early in Friday’s practice, an injury that was serious enough that trainers spent 15 minutes slowly prodding and testing the knee on a trainer’s table. McGary stayed stretched out on the table for the rest of practice.
There was no immediate word on the severity of the injury, and in keeping with team policy, UW coach Chris Petersen had little to say when asked about it after practice.
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“He’s fine,” Petersen said. “Injuries, it’s fine. We’re fine. What else? Let’s talk football.”
The Huskies already have been practicing without left tackle Trey Adams, who suited up but did not participate in any team drills Friday. His injury is unknown.
McGary (6 feet 7, 300 pounds) and Adams (6-8, 306) are supposed to be the present and future bookends for UW’s line, cornerstones with archetypical size and NFL upside. Monsters among men, they are. And, when healthy, they are UW’s best bet at ending a 15-year drought without having an all-conference lineman.
Last fall, Adams (nine starts) was the first true freshman on record to start at left tackle for UW, and McGary (six starts) battled through various ailments as a redshirt freshman to become a part-time starter on the right side.
Shifting the line has been a careful and, at times, desperate dance for UW O-line coach Chris Strausser, who played nine different starters last fall. On Friday, with center/guard Michael Kneip also limited by an unspecified injury, Strausser had just nine healthy linemen to rotate among the first- and second-string lines.
“Spring’s a little bit different in terms of, I don’t think you really evaluate the group as much you do individuals coming along,” Strausser said. “We’re not in that mode of trying to find out who the best five are. We haven’t really done a lot of rotating guys with ones and twos because they just need to focus on their own thing and getting better, which I think is a good thing.
“For guys to get hung up on which group they’re working with right now is not important.”
With Adams and McGary sidelined, junior Andrew Kirkland played left tackle with the first team and right tackle with the second team late in Friday’s practice. Kirkland started seven games last fall, two at right tackle and two at left tackle.
“He did a good job competing out there,” Strausser said. “He has a lot of stuff to clean up. He, for whatever reason, was a guy that took a little bit of time to go from the right-handed stance to the left-handed stance. … He seems to be pretty comfortable (now).”
Devin Burleson, a 6-8, 301-pound redshirt freshman from Palmdale, Calif., made his debut with the No. 1 offense at right tackle. Burleson primarily focused on basketball in high school and was seen as a project when he signed with UW in 2014. He grayshirted that year, delaying his enrollment, and then redshirted in 2015.
“I’ve been pleased with what he’s done so far this spring. He’s getting a lot of reps, which is great for him,” Strausser said. “He’s no longer a guy that hasn’t played a lot of football. We don’t want to approach it that way with him, and it’s time for him to take advantage of that 6-7 body and move some guys around. …
“I don’t think he feels like he’s arrived. But I think he’s making progress to the point that he can go compete against guys that you’ve got to compete against.”
• Browning connected with Ross for two deep touchdown passes, on plays of about 40 and 60 yards, in team periods on Friday. Browning’s final pass of the day, on a fourth-down throw during a two-minute period, was intercepted by Budda Baker.
• Cornerback Jordan Miller intercepted backup QB K.J. Carta-Samuels on the last play of the day.
• The Huskies will host their Junior Day recruiting event on Saturday as part of the team’s closed workout.