Talented recruit Erik Kohler is part of Huskies' commitment to offensive line
Erik Kohler, a high school teammate of fellow UW football recruit Nick Montana, is one of seven offensive linemen who will sign with the Huskies on Wednesday.
Seattle Times staff reporter
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Erik Kohler calls himself a fan of classic literature, especially fiction with a historic bent.
A particular favorite, he said, is "The Aenid," the ancient poem depicting the travels of Aeneas from Troy to Carthage.
"I'm just a big history buff," he says.
Washington football fans, meanwhile, might consider Kohler something of a return to the classics himself.
Kohler, an offensive linemen from Oaks Christian High in Westlake Village, Calif., is one of seven offensive linemen set to sign with UW on Wednesday, the beginning of the football letter-of-intent signing period. It's a group that could help reshape the long-term fortunes of the Huskies.
Of all the factors that have doomed UW to seven straight non-winning seasons, the biggest on-field reason might be a lack of quality offensive linemen, something that for years helped separate UW from the rest.
When the Huskies rode atop the Pac-10 through most of the 1980s and '90s, they usually did so on the shoulders of a sturdy offensive line — UW had 15 All-Pac-10 offensive linemen those two decades.
But symbolic of the recent struggles, the Huskies haven't had an all-conference offensive lineman since 2001 and none drafted by the NFL since 2005.
Recruiting analysts, however, single out UW's group of committed offensive linemen as one of the big reasons for praising a class that figures to finish ranked among the top 20 to 25 in the nation, if not higher.
"I think this is the class that's going to get them really heading back to the top of the conference," said recruiting analyst Tom Lemming of CBS College Sports.
If nothing else, the seven are the largest group of offensive linemen to sign with the Huskies this decade, adding sorely needed depth.
But recruiting analysts say the group of linemen will add more than just bodies.
"They are all big and aggressive guys and can move, and that's what you look for, guys that can move their feet," said Lemming. "They have the potential to dominate."
The group also features Bothell High guard Colin Porter, O'Dea tackle Ben Riva, guard/center Colin Tanigawa of Loyola High in Los Angeles, tackle Micah Hatchie of Waialua (Hawaii) High, tackle Michael Criste of Mission Viejo (Calif.) High and tackle James Atoe of The Dalles (Ore.) High.
But like most analysts, Lemming reserves his most praise for Kohler, who helped protect the blindside at Oaks Christian for another noted UW recruit — quarterback Nick Montana, son of Joe Montana.
"He's the top offensive lineman in California," Lemming said.
Kohler was one of UW's earliest commitments, and he needs no prodding to remember the exact date — "Aug. 20," he says with no hesitation.
Washington wasn't anywhere near his radar until coach Steve Sarkisian was hired. Even then, it took a little prodding from Nick Montana — who committed in June — to get Kohler really interested. Kohler wanted to get his recruitment over with before the fall, so he decided to take unofficial visits during the summer to the schools he was considering.
"I was hearing good things about (Sarkisian) from Nick," Kohler said. "So I went up there and thought I'd give it a shot and I loved it."
Notre Dame was his other final consideration, but Kohler said he liked UW's offense, the fresh start for the program under Sarkisian and the potential to play early — he wants to stay at left tackle, though some envision he could move inside eventually.
"They run a prostyle offense and that's what Oaks Christian does a lot of, so I think it will be an easy transition," he said.
The 6-foot-4, 285-pounder also fits with UW's new philosophy of favoring athleticism over sheer size up front. The Huskies' zone blocking scheme puts more of a premium on mobility.
"They have a mobile offense and they want mobile linemen," Kohler said.
Kohler's mobility was groomed on the baseball field, which he said was his favored sport until high school. He was primarily a first baseman and pitcher.
He didn't play football until his freshman year of high school, finally prodded to play by coaches. Kohler said he was 6 feet tall in the fifth grade.
"I didn't know what I was doing," he said. "But I learned to love it."
By his sophomore year he was already receiving recruiting letters and dropped everything else to concentrate on football.
"I knew football was the sport that would take me the furthest," he said.
• Atoe committed to UW on Monday, according to Scout.com, after taking a visit to Washington last weekend. He could end up becoming a "grayshirt," meaning he would enroll late and count against the Class of 2011.
• UW also got a recommitment Monday from DL Lawrence Lagafuaina of Aiea, Hawaii. He had earlier given a soft commit to UW and then visited Hawaii over the weekend.
• UW lost a kicker who had long been committed to the Huskies when Alejandro Maldonado decided to sign with Oregon. He committed to UW last summer but was swayed to Oregon after a trip to Eugene last weekend.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or email@example.com.
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