Then came news that the unit might get broken up before Saturdays season finale.
Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian said Wednesday night that team captain and starting center Ryan Tolar might miss a game for the first time this season after being diagnosed with concussion-like symptoms. Tolar has been feeling sick all week, and the medical staff determined Wednesday that it stemmed from a blow to the head he suffered in last Saturdays Apple Cup.
While the Huskies arent ruling Tolar out of this Saturdays game against California, Sarkisian said that Mykenna Ikehara has a good chance of getting the start at center.
Were trying to take the proper precautions, Sarkisian said. If (Tolar) is able to play Saturday, hes able to play. But were not going to push him back out there if hes not ready.
Rather than looking at the injury as a hit to the units chemistry, Sarkisian sees it as a chance for Ikehara a redshirt freshman and Tolars likely successor in two years to get some valuable game action.
I think its a hit, but its also a great opportunity for Mykenna, Sarkisian said. Hes actually finally gotten healthy after his knee being sore and being beat up. Now hes getting his opportunity, and its good for us.
Tolars injury comes at an unfortunate time in that the offensive line was starting to come together. After getting manhandled at times in the loss to Oregon State, UWs line opened lots of holes in Saturdays Apple Cup win over Washington State.
During the course of that game, running back Chris Polk went over the 1,000-yard mark for the season, becoming the first UW freshman to hit that milestone.
You always take pride in having that 1,000-yard rusher, senior lineman Ben Ossai said Wednesday. We cant do it without him, and he cant do it without us.
For most of this season, the Huskies offensive line has flown under the radar. Position coach Dan Cozzetto generally forbids them from talking to reporters after practice, so the typically unheralded linemen have generated even less attention than in past years.
Ossai, who was allowed to talk to the media Wednesday provided he was not asked about this weekends opponent, said that Cozzettos media ban was a good thing for the linemen.
It keeps us focused, said Ossai, the lone senior in the starting lineup this season. As long as we know what we can say and what we cant say, that makes it easier for us.
Asked to assess the performance of this years line, Ossai said: Weve improved since last year. But theres always room for improvement.
Sarkisian said earlier this week that the Huskies offensive line has been somewhat maligned here throughout the year, adding that Polks milestone was a nice reward for the unit.
But there have been times, he added, when the UW linemen have not been physical enough. Its an area that the coaches plan to address in the offseason, whether that means recruiting bigger bodies or more dedication to the weight room.
Four of UWs current starters are slated to come back next season: Tolar, guard Senio Kelemete and tackles Drew Schaefer and Cody Habben. Former starting guard Gregory Christine, a junior, is also expected back from an ankle injury. Converted defensive lineman Nick Wood, a sophomore, has started four games but struggled in the loss to Oregon State.
Sarkisian said that the Huskies offensive line is starting to grow together.
But that maturation might take a step back this week if Tolar cant play.
Safety Victor Aiyewa was the only UW player named to the Pac-10s all-academic first team. Senior fullback Paul Homer and freshman safety Greg Walker were named to the second team, while four Huskies received honorable mention. The Washington State University football program had 18 players receive academic honors. ... Starting defensive tackle Cameron Elisara (shoulder) has been held out of practice the past two days, and Sarkisian said he will continue to be evaluated throughout the week before a determination is made about the juniors status for the Cal game. ... Polk and Aiyewa have been wearing red non-contact jerseys this week, but Sarkisian said both will be available Saturday.
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