UW announced before Monday’s practice the retirement of senior left guard Dexter Charles, the Huskies’ only full-time returning starter on the line. The loss of Charles is a significant setback for an inexperienced front five — and an inexperienced offense in general.

Share story

It was a rough day for Washington’s offensive line. In other words, it was more or less a normal day for Washington’s offensive line.

First, just before the start of Monday morning’s practice, the school announced the retirement of senior left guard Dexter Charles, the Huskies’ only full-time returning starter on the line.

Then on the last play of practice, Charles’ replacement, Jake Eldrenkamp, rolled an ankle and hobbled off the field. It didn’t necessarily appear to be a serious injury, but it was nonetheless symbolic of the state of the program’s shaky recent history on the line.

Sept. 4

Washington @ Boise State, 7:15 p.m., ESPN

The loss of Charles is a significant setback for an inexperienced front five — and an inexperienced offense in general.

“It’s a hard day,” UW coach Chris Petersen said. “It’s a hard day for him. It’s a hard day for us.”

Without Charles, the Huskies’ entire starting line from January’s Cactus Bowl will likely be entirely different for the Sept. 4 season opener at Boise State.

Eldrenkamp, a 6-foot-5, 296-pound junior out of Bellevue High, was first in line to take over for Charles. UW line coach Chris Strausser mentioned redshirt freshman Jesse Sosebee and Andrew Kirkland as backup options.

UW’s first-team line Monday included sophomore Coleman Shelton at left tackle, Eldrenkamp at left guard, senior Siosifa Tufunga at center, junior Shane Brostek at right guard and redshirt freshman Matt James at right tackle. None of them started a game last year at those positions.

That setup isn’t etched in stone, though.

“We don’t have a solid five right now,” Strausser said. “We are going to move some bodies around until we find the right pieces.”

A 6-5, 313-pound Stanwood High graduate, Charles was UW’s regular left guard the past three seasons, starting 30 games in a career in which he’s had three known shoulder surgeries and a knee injury that kept him out of spring ball this year and ultimately forced him to retire. UW coaches said Charles would like to be a coach.

“The guy’s a warrior, man,” Tufunga said. “He’s been through a lot as a Dawg … and I know it’s hard for him — him and his family. (But) it’s part of the game.”

Charles is just the latest example in a series of injury-shortened careers for UW offensive linemen in recent years.

In 2012, starting guard Colin Porter (shoulder injuries) retired before his junior year. After his junior season in 2013 season, Erik Kohler also retired after a string of knee, foot and shoulder injuries. Last year, starting tackle Ben Riva missed almost all of his senior season after a “crazy list” of injuries, including a broken arm, broken foot, stress fractures in his back and a degenerative knee issue. Now, it’s Charles.

Injuries, of course, are a common risk in football, an accepted reality for players. But there is one commonality with those linemen who were unable to finish their careers as they hoped: They all played as freshmen, and they played a lot.

“It’s very rare for a kid out of high school to be physically ready to play, and it’s even more rare for a kid to be mentally ready to play, especially as a lineman, out of high school,” Riva told The Times in May. “You hear about fans talking about these kids coming and playing right away and it makes me sick. I really wish every kid did get to redshirt a year and got some time to figure things out on their own.”

The exception, Riva said, are “genetic freaks” who are naturally bigger and stronger than their peers. The Huskies might have one of those in Trey Adams, a 6-7, 302-pound freshman left tackle from Wenatchee who this week earned a promotion to the second-team offense.

Petersen, entering his 10th season as a head coach, has never played a true-freshman offensive lineman. He was asked Monday if there’s a way to manage injury risk at the position.

“That’s a good question,” he said. “It’s a tough position. Those guys are pounding on each other a lot. Those knees in general, I don’t know if they’re really made for football. So you’ve got to have a little luck going on there.”

Ten days into fall camp, the Huskies haven’t had any luck on the line, a trend with which they’re all too familiar.

Notes

• It was a great day for the defense but the roughest yet for Jake Browning. The freshman QB threw three interceptions Monday, the last one on a very poorly thrown deep ball picked off by safety Brian Clay. “He’ll bounce back,” Petersen said. “He’s a mature guy. He gets it. He takes stuff very hard, very personal.” The defense had six turnovers overall Monday. K.J. Carta-Samuels and Tony Rodriguez each threw a pick, and Lavon Coleman lost a fumble.

• The Huskies have an off day Tuesday; Wednesday’s practice is closed to the media and will be held at an undisclosed off-site location.