PULLMAN – Washington State’s first-team offense took the field for its scrimmage on Saturday. Rico Forbes was at right tackle.
The second team shuffled in eventually. Rico Forbes was at right tackle.
Third team, more Forbes.
“We don’t really just have two true backups right now,” offensive line coach Clay McGuire said. “We’ve really got three true tackles, and one of them (is) playing guard right now.”
So Forbes, a junior who redshirted last season after transferring from Navarro Junior College in Corsicana, Texas, is playing as many reps as he can handle so far this spring. With the starters. With the backups. With everybody, essentially.
Part of the reason is injury-related. The Cougars are without senior Wade Jacobson, who isn’t participating in any contact drills this spring while he fully recovers from back surgery. Sophomore Jake Rodgers has been watching practice with a boot on his left leg.
That leaves WSU with the three tackles McGuire referenced – Forbes, left tackle John Fullington and Dan Spitz, who has moved to left guard to cover for an injury to center Matt Goetz, for whom guard Elliott Bosch has taken over at center for the time being.
Got all that?
“We’ve got a few guys out right now that would help offset those positions,” McGuire said. “That’s just part of spring ball. That’s the way it goes. We’re not holding them or trying to rest their legs for a game or anything, so we’re trying to get all the reps we can out of them.”
Forbes may be the biggest beneficiary. Listed at 6-foot-6 and 283 pounds, he redshirted last season despite WSU’s depth issues at tackle.
“The whole redshirting thing, I didn’t want to have to be a part of it, but experiencing it helped me develop a whole lot,” Forbes said after Tuesday’s practice. “Where I thought I was initially compared to where I was after redshirting, it helped me a whole lot. I wasn’t pleased with the coaches’ decision but at the end of the day, when I looked at it and talked to my parents and talked to my coaches, it was the best thing for me.”
It made sense. Forbes grew up in the Bahamas and didn’t play football until his junior year of high school, after he moved to Houston to live with a family friend. A torn ACL wiped out his sophomore year, and academic issues forced him to sit out as a senior.
After two years at Navarro, he enrolled at WSU in time for spring practices last season. But coaches didn’t think he was ready yet – Forbes says his footwork and technique weren’t where they needed to be – and chose to redshirt him to assure some depth at the position after Jacobson departed.
“Last year, I probably wouldn’t have been able to do it as much,” Forbes said of the amount of repetitions he’s played. “Going through the spring ball, summer workout, fall practices have helped get me in great shape.”
There are still times his inexperience shows, coaches say, particularly toward the end of practice when his technique breaks down because of fatigue.
“I’m not sure he fully realizes how good he can be,” coach Mike Leach said. “His best plays are good. It’s when he does three-quarters of a play, we’ve got to get him through that. We’ve got to get him to where he plays his best every play.”
“His problem right now is when he gets tired or something happens he hasn’t seen, he breaks down a little bit,” McGuire said. “But when he knows what he’s doing, he’s pretty good.”
He’s had plenty of opportunities to show it. It would be considered a surprise if Jacobson didn’t reclaim the starting right tackle position when he returns to full speed – as it is now, he’s taking reps with the No. 1 unit during lighter, no-contact drills – but Forbes has at least emerged as a legitimate option in the offensive line rotation.
“He’s got tremendous upside, he’s got a tremendous frame,” McGuire said. “He’s what you’re looking for when you go out recruiting. I’ve been really pleasantly surprised with how he’s picked up the system. He’s not there yet, but he’s been working hard and he’s really doing some good stuff right now.
“He’s playing real well and if he can reach his potential, he’s definitely got a shot.”
Dotson at practice: Freshman offensive lineman Denzell Dotson, who was arrested early Sunday morning by Pullman police on suspicion of DUI, participated in Tuesday’s practice.
Asked about his DUI policy, Leach said: “You look at it and consider the facts and adjust to it as it comes. It depends on the circumstances of the situation, the whole deal.”
As for any disciplinary action Dotson may face?
“Anything that we do, have done, will do, that’s strictly within the team,” Leach said.
Notes: Safety Tyree Toomer, who has sat out the last three practices, was not in attendance. Neither was defensive end Jordan Pu’u Robinson or cornerbacks Travion Smith and Spencer Waseem, all of whom have been limited by injury at some point this spring. Defensive end Adam Coerper returned to practice and played with the starting defense, and walk-on offensive lineman Joe Dahl, a Spokane native, practiced for the first time this spring. … Cougfan.com reported that marijuana charges against former WSU linebacker Sekope Kaufusi have been dropped, according to Kaufusi’s lawyer. Kaufusi was dismissed from the team in early March after police allegedly found marijuana in his apartment.