This years offensive line group returns as one of the most experienced positions on the Washington football team. The dawgs return eight lineman with legitimate college football experience, including three PAC-12 honorable mentions and a preseason Rimington trophy watch list player. The offensive line figures to be one of the strongest positions on the Washington football roster, here is my look at how it will all shake down before the opener against Hawaii on August 31st.
Micah Hatchie (6-foot-5, 301 pounds) Senior LT
Winner of the team’s John P. Angel lineman of the year award, PAC-12 honorable mention, and starter at left tackle in each game over the last two seasons highlights what Hatchie brings to this offensive line group.
Hatchie possesses NFL size as a left tackle and has proven that he has the quick feet required for the position.
He experienced some rough patches early in his career, getting thrown into the fire as a redshirt freshman. Keith Price ended up taking the brunt of the blow caused by the young, inexperienced offensive line, including Hatchie.
This year’s quarterback will not have that problem.
Investing early in Hatchie paid off last year. The return should be even greater this year. The one downside to Hatchie’s consistency over the last two years:
He lacks an experienced backup at left tackle.
Dawg fans shouldn’t be worried though. With loads of experienced depth and incoming freshman Kaleb McGary, the Washington football team should remain solid at the left pillar for years to come.
Dexter Charles (6-foot-5, 278 pounds) Junior LG
Similar to Hatchie, Charles is also a winner of the John P. Angel award as a freshman (2012), PAC-12 honorable mention, and 22 starts at guard to his name. Having that much experience and talent on the left side of the line should result in consistently dominating play.
The development of Hatchie and Charles over the last two years went a long way in vaulting Bishop Sankey up the Washington football record books. That development should reach near conclusion this season with Dwayne Washington and company carrying the rock.
Although Charles does not possess the shear size of a Hatchie type, he makes up for it with the ferocity he brings to the position. At times last season, that ferocity resulted in untimely hands-to-the-face penalties, costing the dawgs greatly.
Another year of experience and growing continuity among an entrenched unit should reduce the number of unnecessary mistakes like personal fouls. Charles will surly be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the team’s continuity. Between Hatchie and Charles, the left side of the line offers loads of quality experience, as well as the talent to move defensive fronts in the stacked PAC-12.
Mike Criste (6-foot-6, 318-pounds) Senior C
The trend continues: Criste boasts 19 starts to his name, including every game last season at center. Criste has also been named to the Rimington trophy watch list for the 2014 season. Similar to most of the starters on the offensive line, Criste exemplifies exactly what is unique about this year’s line compared to offensive lines of recent memory.
At 6-foot-6 and +300 pounds, Criste is one of four projected starters that is at least 6-foot-5 and is over 300 pounds. Consistent size across the front is an attribute that has not been synonymous with Washington football since the 90’s.
Over the recent years, fans have seen the likes of Stanford and Alabama capitalizing on recruiting massive, earth moving lineman with which they impose their will in the trenches. The dawgs are finally at a point where the talent they have can match the opposition pound for pound, literally. This year the dawgs will boast the physically imposing front that makes defenses quiver at the knees.
Criste is in no danger of losing his job, however, former right guard Colin Tanigawa has been taking reps at center. In the event that Criste runs into injury problems this year, the team has a backup plan already in place.
James Atoe (6-foot-7, 375-pounds) Senior RG
Epitomizing the definition of big, Atoe is the largest player on the Washington football roster. I have talked briefly about Atoe’s recent weight gain in the past in the Washington football spring preview: offense.
The right guard position is the only spot on the line that I think has any possibility of a change. The previously mentioned Tanigawa is the returning starter and was team captain last season (but with a new coaching staff coming in I doubt his captaincy will carry as much weight). Despite that, I still think Atoe’s size will prevent him from being left out of the starting group and right guard is the perfect position for him.
Atoe has a four inch height advantage and weighs almost 100 pounds more than Tanigawa. Add in the fact that Tanigawa has been working out at center during spring and it begins to seem that his best fit will be as a rotational lineman. He possess the speed and experience to be flexible on the line, a luxury that Atoe does not have at his size.
Atoe might not be as polished of a product as Tanigawa is as of now, but with unparalleled size like his, the upside is way too high to not push the limits of his potential.
Ben Riva (6-foot-7, 313-pounds) Senior RT
The other bookend of the Washington front line, Riva keeps the trend alive by checking in at 6-foot-7, 313-pounds. Much like most of his fellow starters, Riva has 20 starts to his name at right tackle. At UW’s recent combine for current players, Riva came in third in the bench press with 28 reps of 225 pounds.
While the left side of the line showcases the more celebrated individuals of the Washington football front line, the right side showcases the size and power. Atoe finished second in the aforementioned combine with 30 reps. Having two of three strongest and largest offensive lineman on the same side of the line should result in some effective power running.
Riva has had his struggles in the past just like every other lineman mentioned previously. Together this group got thrown into the mix early in their time at UW and all of them have become better because of it. The struggles experienced by Price in past years will finally by paid back with a group of individuals with experience, size, talent, and most importantly: chemistry.
It isn’t easy to get excited about the big hog mollies working in the trenches, but if there was ever a year, this is the one.
Shane Brostek (6-foot-4, 287- pounds JR), Siosifa Tufunga (6-foot-3, 321-pounds JR), Ross Dolbec (6-foot-5, 304-pounds JR), Tanigawa, as well as many others all figure to find themselves competing for reps come fall. Brostek sticks out of the bunch after his performance at the husky combine with his 33 bench reps, most on the team, despite being undersized compared to the likes of Atoe and Riva. Incoming freshman Kaleb McGary (6-foot-7, 285-pounds) has expressed interest in playing defense and Petersen has stated that he will allow him to try it out. However, left tackle is one of the toughest positions to find. When a recruit comes into the program with the size and skill to be a cornerstone left tackle, it is absolute craziness to not utilize his talent. Defensive players are a dime a dozen, finding the lynch pin of your offensive front is not so easy. I applaud the move by Petersen to recruit McGary as both an offensive and defensive lineman. It ultimately resulted in his commitment to UW. And I hope McGary gets a fair shot to play defense because if he does succeed, he has the makings of an impact defender. Once Hatchie vacates his current roster spot the team will be in need of a new left tackle and McGary looks like he has the makings to be a future +30 game starter.
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