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Concussion might sideline UW’s Tolar

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By Scott M. Johnson
Herald Writer
SEATTLE — After what was probably their finest performance of the season, the offensive linemen on the University of Washington football team looked like they were finally coming together.
Then came news that the unit might get broken up before Saturday’s 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 Saturday’s Apple Cup.
While the Huskies aren’t ruling Tolar out of this Saturday’s game against California, Sarkisian said that Mykenna Ikehara has a good chance of getting the start at center.
“We’re trying to take the proper precautions,” Sarkisian said. “If (Tolar) is able to play Saturday, he’s able to play. But we’re not going to push him back out there if he’s not ready.”
Rather than looking at the injury as a hit to the unit’s chemistry, Sarkisian sees it as a chance for Ikehara — a redshirt freshman and Tolar’s likely successor in two years — to get some valuable game action.
“I think it’s a hit, but it’s also a great opportunity for Mykenna,” Sarkisian said. “He’s actually finally gotten healthy after his knee being sore and being beat up. Now he’s getting his opportunity, and it’s good for us.”
Tolar’s 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, UW’s line opened lots of holes in Saturday’s 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 can’t do it without him, and he can’t 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 weekend’s opponent, said that Cozzetto’s 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 can’t say, that makes it easier for us.”
Asked to assess the performance of this year’s line, Ossai said: “We’ve improved since last year. But there’s always room for improvement.”
Sarkisian said earlier this week that the Huskies’ offensive line has been “somewhat maligned here throughout the year,” adding that Polk’s milestone was a nice reward for the unit.
But there have been times, he added, when the UW linemen have not been physical enough. It’s 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 UW’s 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 can’t play.
Safety Victor Aiyewa was the only UW player named to the Pac-10’s 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 junior’s 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.
Story tags » Huskies Football

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