My Offensive Line Fears: Fact or Fantasy

As you all know too well, I am very attached to the ‘Big Uglies’ that patrol ythe offensive side of what is lovingly referred to as the trenches.  I spend a lot of time looking at recruiting film, game film and reading stories about linemen and their evolution through the years. So for me, living through the recruiting of 2010 – 2011, it made me afraid.  Very afraid.

And I see it again now.

Of course I should post a disclaimer that I am kind of chicken little when it comes to this stuff and that it is only late June. So take this worth a grain of salt, but I am concerned.  And here is why:

In 2010, we took exactly one lineman.  His name was Roman Sapolu and he was a great player and probably better person for the Beavers. His signing was after the Beavers signed 5 offensive linemen in 2009. In 2011, the Beavers got 3 offensive linemen, one was even a 4* flip from UCLA.  Unfortunately, both he and Justin Addie dealt with a series of injuries that cost them their careers at Oregon State.  In addition, Akeem Gonzalez moved to the defensive side of team, leaving just one lineman for a two year stretch that ever produced for Oregon State.

This meant that in 2013, when three linemen went down in the first few weeks, redshirt freshmen Grant Bays, Josh Mitchell and Gavin Andrews were asked to step up.  While those guys ended up being amazing for us, there were struggles early and the offense, though prolific through the air, could never get it going on the ground. Now imagine if in 2013, OSU was going into that season without Cooks, Mannion or Mullaney. That would have been a train wreck.

So where are we?  In 2015 we got three high school linemen, Blake Brandel, Miki Fafita and Zach Lucas.  Lucas has since retired, so there are only two remaining players from that class.  Last year, the only high school offensive line man we got was Gus Lavaka.  I love Gus, but that is three players in two classes that will be able to play in 2018 when most everyone else will be gone. Those three players will be in the 2 deep no mater what.

So this year we have Fabian Kratz, who has a ton of upside, and then currently no one.  For me, it isn’t just about the recruiting game or stars or anything like that. It is the reality that in 2018, the Beavers will most likely have redshirt freshmen in their two deep.  This class may be asked to start after just one year of practice.  If that is the case, we need the best possible players we can get.  We need guys that can make an instant impact and push for playing time from day one.  Kratz may be that guy, I don’t know.  And whoever we get will get a year to get better.  But if we don’t get at least 4 quality linemen, and I would feel better with 5, then we are looking at a 2018 with a new QB, new receivers, and 3 new starters on the offensive line (potentially) and that is scary.

At least for me.

On the bright side, that also means that anyone that comes to OSU this year will get a shot to start before they can legally vote.  And playing time is a huge seller for talent.

What do you think? Am I crazy?

Go Beavs (PRO)

7 thoughts on “My Offensive Line Fears: Fact or Fantasy

  1. Andy Wooldridge (@AndyWooldridge1)

    I expect (and fear) the answer will be at least partially some more JC transfers. I say fear because while this tactic can produce good short term help, which is one reason Gary Andersen uses a fair number of them, it also pushes the depth challenges only a little ways down the road, and can even compound them.

    1. Peter Riley Osborne Post author

      I agree, and you have to compound this with the luck we have had in recruiting JC linemen. Which is not good. Even in Andersen’s previous two classes, we have recruiting two and as of right now, neither are in our two deep. One will graduate this year and the other next year. So that is two scholarships that went to players that may not ever contribute to the 2 deep. At least when you have 4-5 years with a player, there is a chance to develop. Yanni Demogerontas is a good example, as he is currently our starter at center, but has taken a good three years to get to where he is ready for it, even had Josh Mitchell not been an amazing center before him. So if you are counting on JC players you are counting on them being really ready coming in and that is not always the case.

      1. wcbeav

        Offensive line has the worst track record for JC players becoming starters of any position, at least at OSU. The only immediate starter I can remember was Mitch White and that was (gasp) 1999.

        1. Peter Riley Osborne Post author

          Yeah, I think so too. I couldn’t remember anyone other than White. If we don’t see any on the field this year, that will be another 0-2 in the last two classes. It is just tough to get guys going. I think the one thing White had going for him was the need and also the fact that most teams ran a variation of the same offense back then, so he was coming into a system that was kind of familiar. Oh and he was amazing. There was that too… 🙂

          1. Andy Wooldridge (@AndyWooldridge1)

            The picture just got clearer. Or less clear, depending on your perspective.

            JC transfer Leo Fuimaono, who was working as the center with the “1s” this spring until he tore a pectoral muscle, has medically retired, after a diagnosis of spinal stenosis.

          2. Peter Riley Osborne Post author

            Yeah, I had heard that, which is sad. Also Damien Haskins and Drew Clarkson, Sosia Tauaho and Caleb Smith are also no longer on the team (medical or various reasons). I think there may be a few more before fall camp, but like you said, clarity even with sad news means that the guys we have will get the reps they need to be prepared as best they can.

  2. Andy Wooldridge (@AndyWooldridge1)

    Even for valid reasons, the amount of turnover concerns me, as its almost forcing a lot of use of JCs/transfers, and that has real potential to create a second wave of depth/need issues when they leave earlier than a freshman enrollee who stays longer would, and the annual recruiting limit can prevent even having a full team on scholarship.

    It usually means fewer red-shirted scholarship players, but it can mean the same thing as a scholarship reduction, as it is possible to loose more players in a year than you can by rule recruit except via walk-ons.


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