`Old Man' Schaefer Center/Teacher To UW's Young OL
April 16, 2012
By Gregg Bell
SEATTLE - The only thing more extensive than Drew Schaefer'steamwork right now is his experience.
The center is Washington's only senior offensive lineman in 2012. He's been leading his underclassmen teammates through offseason workouts, since Senio Kelemeteplayed his final college game as a senior in December's Alamo Bowl.
"Just trying to bring them along," Schaefer says, with a what's-the-big-deal? shrug. "Being a senior now, I am just trying to push the young guys to help us."
Last week he showed he was truly committed to his line mates during spring practice. He became the latest blocker to get hurt.
Now sidelined by a sprained knee that Huskies coach Steve Sarkisiansays is not major, the three-year starter that made every snap last season has turned into a coach.
Schaefer stood behind backup Mike Criste, as the sophomore and former guard and tackle at Mission Viejo High School in southern California snapped to quarterback Keith Priceand made calls for the Huskies' changing offensive line.
"Drew going down, it stinks, because he is the most experienced guy on the line," Criste said after the two-hour practice at UW's Dempsey Indoor facility. "But it's a great opportunity for me. And it's great having him help me, standing behind the line telling me what I'm doing wrong and giving me advice."
Schaefer even uses a coach's words. He mimics Sarkisian when he emphasizes to Criste the need to put the last snap behind him regardless of the result.
"That's the biggest thing for us, `Move on to the next snap,' to keep our head clearer," Criste said. "And he's helping me with my technique."
Moving to center, as the 6-foot-5, 282-pound Criste did last season while a backup redshirt freshman, involves far more than merely moving over a few feet along the offensive line. And it takes more than only ensuring a clean snap to the quarterback to begin each play.
The center is the line's choreographer. He tells each of the other four linemen whom to block, then has to move quickly after the snap to get to his own guy.
The multitasking on every snap is no easy trick, even for those who -- unlike Criste -- have been the position for years. Yet Sarkisian sees potential in Criste, potential that is growing with each day he bangs into a rugged, 323-plus-pound starting defensive tackle.
"He's got a great challenge going up against Danny Shelton. Danny is a very powerful young man, strong," Sarkisian said. "Mike shows the power in his hips and his lower half to anchor in against a Danny Shelton. He's got some natural athleticism that's there.
"Where he gets in trouble is the ability making all the calls, making the snap, and then blocking a nose tackle that's on your head -- and doing all that fluidly. So that's been the hardest part for him, getting all five linemen, plus the tight ends, on the same page. Then the snap. Then the block. Physically, there's no doubt about it. ... It's just bringing it all together consistently for him."
Center is the latest spot with a spring fill in. Micah Hatchie has been strong at left tackle replacing Kelemete. Guard Colin Tanigawa remains out into at least the summer following a knee injury in November and then surgery. Dexter Charleshas been impressed in Tanigawa's place.
Another returning starter, Erik Kohler, is not fully healthy following a painful 2011. He is gradually working his way back at guard and at tackle on the second team. So Ben Rivahas been at right tackle.
Junior-to-be Colin Porter was forced to give up football after surgery late last month showed his right shoulder had as much degenerative arthritis in it as his left one, on which he had surgery in January. James Atoehas been at right guard for him.
That's four redshirt sophomores and, in the Charles' case, a redshirt freshman. No wonder Schaefer, a fifth-year senior, is a player/teacher/coach right now.
"We really want to emphasize development for the offensive line, to bring depth," Schaefer said. "And with me being old..."
The old man must be doing something right. Sarkisian and veteran line coach Dan Cozzettohave been pleased with the new front's progress through eight of 15 spring practices. And Sarkisian has said the offensive linemen are among his standouts of spring ball so far.
"We are growing," Sarkisian said. "I think we will get better for the opportunities we are getting."
QUICK HITS: Less than 48 hours after the Huskies held their first full-tackling scrimmage of the spring, Sarkisian was impressed with how his players maintained the same intensity in half pads Monday morning. At one point in the final, team portion of practice defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi waved his arms, asking for energy from his guys. They delivered. So much for the players hitting a so-called "wall" midway through spring ball. "We've got a hungry group. It was really spirited again today," Sarkisian said. "I don't see the wall at all." ... The last players on the field Monday, besides two walk-on placekickers: Price and senior WR James Johnson, who has shined through eight practices. They worked routes for almost 30 minutes after drills ended, as offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau watched and nodded approvingly. ... The Huskies practice again on campus Wednesday and Friday mornings. Saturday's 11 a.m. practice at Memorial Stadium at Seattle Center will be the first one open to fans this spring.