Washington uses variety of offensive line combinations
UW has started four different combinations, and every position but Senio Kelemete at left tackle has changed at least once.
Seattle Times staff reporter
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After practice officially ended Wednesday, the members of the Washington Huskies offensive line lingered on the field, getting in a few more drills on their own.
"Basic fundamental stuff," said left tackle Senio Kelemete. "Getting our footwork right."
One thing they should already have down, though, is switching.
While many key positions on the Huskies have remained intact through the first half of the season, the offensive line has been in almost constant flux. UW has started four different combinations, and every position but Kelemete at left tackle has changed at least once.
Asked if the merry-go-round will stop any time soon, UW coach Steve Sarkisian laughed and said "maybe in a couple of years. We're just trying to find the best makeup of what guys do well and who they're next to. And to give us the best chance to be successful."
The Huskies may have found that Saturday with the most revamped line yet, one that featured Greg Christine at center, Kelemete at left tackle, Drew Schaefer at right tackle, Ryan Tolar at left guard and true freshman Colin Porter at right guard.
For Christine, it was his first start at center, and the first time he had played the spot other than 13 snaps at Cal in 2008. Schaefer had been the starting center, but moved to tackle to take the place of Cody Habben, a senior who had 31 career starts but has been struggling. Porter essentially replaced fellow true freshman Erik Kohler, who started two games, then was felled by mononucleosis. Kohler's illness forced one change, with Christine replacing him for the Arizona State game. After the 24-14 loss to the Sun Devils, the Huskies switched it up again.
The fivesome played the entire way in the double-overtime win over the Beavers, and have run as the starting group again throughout practice this week.
"I liked the way we took care of our edges," Sarkisian said. "I thought we were stout at guard against good defensive tackles. We weren't assignment perfect, but we were stout. And I thought we were all on the same page for the most part with Greg making the calls."
That's a particular strength of Christine, a gregarious fifth-year senior and former walk-on.
"Greg is very, very smart," said offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier. "He understands the offense and does a great job of communicating (and) really does a nice job of getting us ID'd and sending us where we need to go."
The shuffling might not be over. Kohler, one of the touted members of the Class of 2010 played well in his two starts and has returned to practice, working with the second team at tackle.
"I could easily foresee that thing moving around more than once before the season's over," Sarkisian said.
The players say it's no big deal.
UW offensive line coach Dan Cozzetto is a believer in all of the players knowing as many positions as possible, and most spent considerable time during spring practice and fall camp working at multiple spots.
"Everyone is pretty used to it," said Kelemete, one player who has rarely ventured away from his spot.
Kelemete moved to left tackle after starting at guard last season and Sarkisian proclaimed him as a potential all-conference candidate during camp. He struggled in a few early games, notably against Nebraska.
But Sarkisian said that he "played one of his best games" against Oregon State.
He'll need another similar effort this week going against an Arizona team that features two of the best defensive ends in the conference in Brooks Reed and Ricky Elmore. Arizona leads the Pac-10 in sacks with 21 — Elmore (six) and Reed (4.5) have combined for half.
"You always want to see where you sit on the bar," said Christine. "And so when you play against great players like Elmore and Reed, you get to see what you are really made of."
• QB Jake Locker dressed in full pads but sat out almost all of practice. Sarkisian explained that Locker is "still really sore" from the OSU game. Locker entered the game with a bruised thigh suffered the week before, and also appeared to take a hard hit on his left shoulder late in the game. Sarkisian said Locker has no clearly defined injury this week.
"It's his whole body, more than anything," Sarkisian said.
Locker also sat out most of the practices on Tuesday and Wednesday last week and then returned to go the entire way against Oregon State.
"There was something to being, last week, being able to hold him out and him feeling fresh on Saturday," Sarkisian said. It's trying to go along those same lines."
Sarkisian said he didn't think there was any question Locker would play, but didn't rule out he could be impacted come game time.
"Oh, I think he could be limited, yeah," Sarkisian said. "We'll have to assess it as the game goes on."
Keith Price took most of the snaps with Nick Montana getting the rest
• Johri Fogerson (hip) did not practice and was ruled out.
• Devin Aguilar took part in practice and Sarkisian said he should be able to play.
• The Oct. 30 home game with Stanford will start at 4 p.m. and will be televised on Versus.