SEATTLE — Gary Jeffers didn’t need anyone to tell him he had once-in-a-generation left tackle at Puyallup High School, but he’ll never forget a conversation with a rival coach.
They were talking about Stanford freshman Josh Garnett, the 6-foot-5, 320-pound mobile monolith who is unquestionably the Vikings’ greatest football alum since the Huard family produced three college-bound quarterbacks in the 1990s.
Jeffers coached Garnett for three years and thought he’d heard it all when it came to the young phenom until Kentwood coach Rex Norris gave him something to ponder.
“He said he’d never seen a kid pick up another kid and throw him out of bounds the way Josh did one of their guys,” Jeffers said. “He would do things like that, and it was just reflective of the physical dominance he had at the high-school level.
“Hearing it described like and in those terms made me think for a second at just how special Josh really is.”
Garnett returns home Thursday when No. 8 Stanford meets Washington at CenturyLink Field.
Perhaps the difference between the Cardinal (3-0) and Huskies (2-1) is best illustrated by examining each team’s offensive line.
This week, coach Steve Sarkisian announced starting left guard Colin Tanigawa is out for the season, presumably due to a knee injury. He’s the fourth player expected to start on the offensive line to suffer a major injury.
Washington expects to start Micah Hatchie at left tackle, Dexter Charles at left guard, center Drew Schaefer, Mike Criste at right tackle and either James Atoe or Shane Brostek at right guard.
Except for Schaefer, a senior who started the previous two seasons, all are underclassmen with little experience.
Meanwhile, Stanford rolls out an offensive line that has three returning starters and three high-school All-Americans as backups, including Garnett.
“The last game we played eight (offensive lineman) and the two previous games we played nine,” Cardinal coach David Shaw said on a teleconference Tuesday. “It keeps those guys fresh and at the same time it presents different looks and different problems for defenses.”
Nicknamed “The Tunnel Workers Union,” Stanford’s offensive front has made life relatively easy for first-year starting quarterback Josh Nunes, who replaced Andrew Luck. The Cardinal has allowed two sacks, the fewest in the Pac-12 and tied for 12th in the country.
Stanford is also averaging 149.7 rushing yards after gaining 202 yards on the ground during a 21-14 win over USC on Sept. 15.
During his four years at Stanford, Shaw’s predecessor Jim Harbaugh built a physically dominating run-oriented offense that steamrolled the Huskies every time they played.
Since taking over last year, Shaw made it a priority to add size and depth to Stanford’s massive offensive line.
His first complete recruiting class included five offensive linemen in a 22-man class ranked fifth in the nation by Rivals.com and sixth by Scout.com. Both recruiting services had the Cardinal tops in the Pac-12.
Shaw joked in an interview with KJR radio this week that he’s a little nervous about Garnett’s homecoming.
“My only concern about Josh is (if) he’s going to jump offside,” Shaw said. “He’s going to be so excited to play in front of his home crowd and in front of his Puyallup contingent, which I’m sure is going to be an entire section for him.”