It does not really matter who you talk to.
Whether you confront a head coach, pull aside a scout or sit down with a general manager, any man around the game of football will tell you that outside of the position of quarterback, the key to building a winning football team is the offensive line.
As the Washington Huskies look to build off of their consecutive 7-6 bowl game seasons, the construction of an elite offensive line will be its most critical development through offseason practices in 2012.
In the past two years, the Huskies have fielded a relatively young offensive line with the aspiration to have freshmen starters grow into dominant players as juniors and seniors. That goal can become reality this season if linemen Colin Porter and Erik Kohler take a monumental step forward.
Each started at some point in their true freshman seasons in 2010. Now juniors, both figure to enter Spring as starters at some spot on the line despite some inconsistent play. Porter has 19 starts, all at right guard, in his two seasons with Washington while Kohler has amassed double-digit starts between left guard and right tackle (where he spent all 13 games of last season). Whether they remain at those spots will most likely be determined by which players step up to join the line.
Another returning starter is senior Drew Schaefer who has started in all three of his years thus far including the past 26 games at center where he figures to be again in 2012. Schaefer, Porter and Kohler — all seasoned veterans now — will be the key cogs (or, shall I say hogs) of the offensive line.
From there things get interesting. Kohler and Porter could be shifted along the line depending on the players who step up to take what figures to be two openings along the line. One of those openings, left tackle, was created by the departure of Senio Kelemete who had started the previous three seasons as the unquestioned leader of the group.
Not only will Washington have to find a way to replace his reliable play, but also his ceaseless leadership from the left tackle spot. That will test Sarkisian and his staff as they do their best to form a dominant and extremely cohesive unit.
Their options include sophomores Colin Tanigawa, Micah Hatchie, Ben Riva and James Atoe as well as redshirt freshman Dexter Charles. All five appear to be the leading candidates vying for one of the two open spots. Both Tanigawa (at guard) and Hatchie (at tackle) gained experience through game action last season while the others saw spot duty on special teams (Riva and Atoe) or redshirted (Charles).
It is unlikely that incoming freshmen like Shane Brostek, Jake Eldrenkamp, Cory English or Nathan Dean will contend for anything more than a backup spot come Summer.
Who emerges during spring practice — and how they gel with the aforementioned trio of Kohler, Porter and Schaefer — will ultimately decide not only who starts come fall but how the offense performs through the season, especially a running game sans Chris Polk.
But any coach or scout could tell you that.
Note: this post was written before Colin Porter decided to walk away from the Huskies due to lingering shoulder problems.