Wazzu Rise & Grind – Previewing the O Edition

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Happy back-at-it Monday Cougs, as we come off a wonderful Father's Day weekend and we hit the ground running for a new week of Rise 'n' Grind (or is it Rise 'N Grind?  Or maybe Rise & Grind?  Any grammar police want to weigh in, go for it, but it seems like the opinion is split on how to abbreviate "and").  I sincerely hope you all had a great weekend as father's everywhere were honored in some way, shape and form.  We were busy Friday night and most of Saturday with my oldest son's Lacrosse tournament, which was a lot of fun for all.  And for what it's worth?  Lacrosse is getting HUGE up here in the NW!  This Battle of Bothell tournament had 85 teams from around the region over the 5/6 and 7/8th grade levels.  Some really great athletes out there playing this sport, and you can see why they love the game with all the back-and-forth action.  This was our 6th grader's first season playing the game and I knew absolutely nothing about it prior to this spring, but it really is a great sport.  I wonder if baseball might be in some trouble around here with that age group going forward as a spring activity?  Because with the speed and fun of the game it is definitely attractive to the short-attention-span generation!.  

Anyway we had a great day yesterday for Father's Day – had a really good AM run with great morning weather, my kids helped make a huge Sunday breakfast, we went to see Man of Steel (LOVED it btw), then had family over for a BBQ Sunday evening.  Good stuff!  But it's back to the GRIND today, so here we go.

Today's post is a little different than the usual links-n-such style roundup.  Our loyal reader "OldSavage" has been writing a huge preview for the 2013 Cougs, something he shares with family and friends prior to the football season.  We thought it would be a good idea to have him share it with the blog, so, today we will proceed with OldSavage's 2013 preview.  This morning, we'll look back at 2012 and then look at the coaching staff and the offensive skill positions.  Then later this week we'll check in on the O-line, the D-line, linebackers and secondary.  So here we go…

2012 IN REVIEW

By OldSavage

Starting with the BYU game and on through a drubbing in Tempe, it seemed that these were the worst of times, but then, for one damp, chilly November night, it was the best of times. 

THE WORST OF TIMES

After nine months of hype and high expectations, it took a while for reality to set in.  The “Air Raid” offense was completely stymied in Provo, by a mediocre BYU team, then squeaked by FCS Eastern Washington and a pitiful UNLV team (one win in the MWC) only to suffer the indignity of a come-from-behind loss to what was generally considered the worst BCS program in the country.   Finally, the previously besotted fans and media came to realize the Mike Leach did not possess mystical powers and that a complete transition of technique and philosophy takes time, particularly when you start with mediocre talent. 

I am probably the only person (not confined to a mental institution at the time) that thought the Cougs had a chance against the (#2) Oregon Ducks.  And, while I humbly decline any credit (since I don’t think the “visitors” brought their A-game), the Cougars made a surprising showing, particularly on the defensive side.  This was followed by another good losing effort against the (#20) Beavers, a reasonable, if disappointing, showing at home against California and a near miss against the (#7) Cardinal.  There was one more “good” loss, at home against PAC-12 South winner UCLA, sandwiched between the disasters at Utah and Arizona State.  Finally, it was the Apple Cup and that toe, at the end of the chubby body of Andrew Furney, saved the season from complete calamity and left hope for the coming year. 

Surprisingly, it was the defense which seemed to be the first to gel.  Starting with the Oregon game, depth seemed to be the biggest problem and, if the offense could have just moved the ball consistently, the season might have looked very different.  Also, the work of Eric Russell paid off and, except for one game, the Cougar special teams played good, consistent football – inconspicuous on coverage and returns but much improved on distance, accuracy and protection (at least until the UCLA game). 

But it was the offense from which much was expected going into the season and, consequently, represented the biggest disappointment.  In only one game did the Cougars exceed 500 yards of total offense and four times they totaled 255 or less.  And this was almost all via the pass; the Cougars rushed for a measly 349 yards all year (after deductions for sacks).  This was not the Air Raid offense the fans had been told to anticipate and I seriously doubt it was anything like what Leach expected.   It was this lack of production from the offense that was at the core of most of the difficulties the Cougars encountered last year – both on and off the field – and I think there multiple root causes. 

Most often designated as the culprit is the offensive line.  Clearly the line lacked depth last year, with only six players available at times, and two of those previous walk-ons.   Injury and attrition took a toll, both before and during the season, but other coaches have done more with less and there were red-shirts ready to be burned, if necessary.  Another reason for the lack of improvement may be more systemic.  The players at Pullman when Leach arrived were not recruited for, nor did they have experience with, blocking from the wide splits of the Leach spread.  But I do not believe the inadequacies of the front five were the sole factor.

Another problem related to the habits that had developed at WSU (the “culture” – if you must use that term).   The biggest difference I saw between the Cougar passing game and that of the teams like Oregon and Stanford was not the quality of the receivers; it was the blocking by receivers who were not targeted.  The better teams had receivers who knew which defensive player to block and how to block them.  They turned quick outs into 20 yard gains and 20 yard gains into touchdowns.   This may have been at the heart of the Marquess Wilson controversy and, if so, all may work out for the best.   I also imagine that this type of problem was not limited to the receivers; that was just where it was obvious to me.  (I note Winston was the only running back last year that showed good skills in pass protection.)   

Finally, I think a lot of the blame has to be placed squarely on the shoulders of the head coach.  I am not sure that Leach was ready for defenses that had seen and adapted to the numerous variations of the spread that are now out there.   Remember, he had been out of the game for three years and during that time the popularity of the spread has grown, but effective defensive responses to it have proliferated as well.   Also, he had enjoyed an extended period of hearing nothing but accolades from press and fan alike. (I am surprised that some alumnus did not offer to anoint his feet with oil.)  After that it is pretty hard to accept that you are part of the problem.  So you juggle quarterbacks and call out your veterans and, maybe, make things worse.    

I cannot help but believe that those factors, and the realization that he had underestimated the challenges, played a large role in his demeaning his players before the press – a combination of frustration and denial.  While he appears to be a disciple of Leroy Jethro Gibbs (“Never apologize – it’s a sign of weakness.”), his subsequent conduct indicated he learned the error of his ways.  And, if he needed something to bring him down to earth, the Marquess Wilson/abuse brouhaha was just the trick. 


THE BEST OF THE REST

Of course there is the Apple Cup, which salvaged the season and gave some real hope for the future.  But the victory over Washington was merely a demonstration of the development of the team last year and there were some bright spots along the way.

In light of the offensive travails, the success (albeit sporadic) of the defense, and particularly the front seven, was a welcome change.  Breske installed his 3-4 scheme and had it working by the Oregon game.   From there it improved, with fits and starts, as newcomers Ioane Guata, Darryl Monroe, Justin Sagote and Xavier Cooper teamed with, sack-man (9.5) Travis Long and Sophomore Kalafitoni Pole to stall some of the best of the PAC-12.  Blitzes came from everywhere (with TV announcers confusing safeties and linebackers).  When it worked it was really fun to watch.  Oregon State was held to 100 yards rushing, Stanford 120, UCLA 73 and Washington 75.  (Oregon ran for 300 yards in Seattle, but that is just about average for the Ducks and most came in the second half when gambling was taken to an extreme by the Cougar defense .)   These are all teams with strong ground games.

Also, while the offense sputtered and popped, it still put up significant passing yardage – nearly 4000 yards, first in the PAC-12 and ninth in the nation.  This was done during the process of installing a new offense, which was clearly a work in progress, through much of the season.   (Leach did not even attempt plays from his trade mark four verticals series until well into the season.)   By game 12 there were six receivers, with two or more years left who had proven they could play, and excel, at this level.  

The special teams play was vastly improved over the past few years and there is every reason to believe this improvement will continue.  Additionally, the prospect of an improved offensive line was enhanced by Leach being able to redshirt all of the incoming class of linemen, which was due, in large part, to those walk-on players who stepped up and served major roles by the end of the year. 


ODDS & ENDS

The stadium “up-grade” was completed and, while it appears to be a success so far as revenues are concerned, it has done little to enhance the game day experience for the average game goer.  Although they now have a better view of how the other half lives, the most significant change for hoi polloi was the moving of their parking spots to the nether reaches of campus to make room for the big spenders. 

The football only building (FOB) was approved and construction has started, although it seems that it will not be complete until the spring of next year.   Clearly this was needed to keep from falling miserably behind in the PAC-12 recruiting wars, however, these types of facilities just seem a bit “much”  and I believe that we can once again blame Nike/Oregon for making this type of ostentatious outlay necessary. 

We now have a full year of the PAC-12 network and the consequences of the new TV contract under the belt.   It really is nice to have all games in living HD color, even if it is necessary to watch some of the games with the mute on – to avoid throwing shoes at the image of Cory Wise and his ilk.  But there is no doubt that the impact of the total TV package on attendance is a negative – particularly for the Cougars.  (Three of the five conference games at 7:30 at night, with notice of exact date and time often coming only a few days prior, and the Apple Cup on the Friday after Thanksgiving – give me a &%*@ing break.)  Along with a Seattle game not being included in the season ticket package, these are real roadblocks to increasing attendance.   No need to add seating in the near future if this keeps up.

And so much for the PAC-12 network being a cash cow for the members.  Direct TV is still a holdout on the cable package and this deadlock represents a big embarrassment for Mr. Scott (I would have said “the only embarrassment” before the basketball officiating falderal).  Until this provider is added, revenues will come nowhere near projections.  The first year it was undoubtedly a net loss to most members.  There will be no profits to distribute and the losses from ticket sales and no-shows were incurred.  However, the start-up costs were significant, the network does come across well and I anticipate some sort of deal with Direct TV will be reached before the start of the 2012 football season. 

Finally, there is a four team play-off to be instituted to determine the national college football champion.  I think the NCAA has overestimated the demand for a playoff system and was influenced by the various talking heads (because it will give them more to talk about) and the SEC schools (because they don’t have a Rose Bowl).  As a way to determine the “best of the best”, the old polls after the bowl games were as close to accurate as any system coming down the road will be.  For WSU, championship games just marginalize the Rose Bowl – the realistic goal of any Cougar team.  
       

THE 2013 COUGAR FOOTBALL TEAM

The Crimson and Grey game in Spokane was billed as a first look at the reason for higher expectations for the coming season.   However, as one commentator noted, this version of the Air Raid brought up more images of the 2012 difficulties than it did of future delights.   Wayward throws, dropped balls, a near futile running game and sack after sack plagued the offense.  However I don’t think too much weight should be given that practice (and that is what it was – a practice) for a number of reasons.  (1)  It was a miserable day for a passing offense, with heavy swirling winds, and it took a while for the quarterbacks and receivers to adapt.  (2) The defense always comes together faster than the offense and that side of the ball looked pretty good – even missing a raft of players that will be mainstays this fall.  (3) The teams were evenly divided, with half of the “ones” on each team.  This was most detrimental to offensive line, which depends more on familiarity and coordinated effort than do the other aspects of the team. 

Consequently, I believe that “game” represented just a single bad practice session and did not reflect the improvements we will see come fall or the growth of this team since last November.   This is a team that will make a jump next year and compete and win games in PAC-12 play. 
 

THE COACHING STAFF

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There were two changes of assistants during the off season.  The major loss was the departure of Jeff Choate (to Florida – eventually), a primary force in the development of a pretty good linebacking corps.  However, he is replaced by Ken Wilson, an extremely experienced and successful coach from Nevada.   The second departure was that of Eric Morris, one of the receiver coaches.  Replacing him is the enigmatic and media shy David Yost, who has a resume that will match just about any in the conference.   Yost should become something like an assistant offensive coordinator, as well as coaching inside receivers.

One of the most impressive aspects of the present staff is their ability to recruit and utilize walk-on players.   While some coaches are reluctant put walk-ons ahead of scholarship players on the depth chart (they may feel it reflects badly on their recruiting skills), this does not seem to be the case with the Leach crew.  It is very possible that there will be three walk-ons starting on the offensive line for the opening game at Auburn and there has been a steady stream of quality players arriving via the walk-on route since Leach arrived.  (There is also a stream leaving, but that is to be expected, if you go after those who truly have the desire to play and see they will not – at this level.)           

As for changes in philosophy and scheme, I would not expect major ones, but something needs to be done with the running game and maybe now Leach will have the time and resources to install some aspects of coach Mastro’s “pistol offense”.   (Mastro has been quoted in the press as indicating that integration of the “pistol” was a major topic of conversation with Leach this off season.)   Possibly Yost can bring some fresh thinking on ways to prod some more yardage out of the ground game.   The players are now familiar enough with the Air Raid so that Leach can introduce any nuances that he has been reluctant about up till now.   

On the defensive side, Breske and Leach have decided to simplify the process, reducing the number options and limiting the decision making for the players.  So far this seems to have worked and met

with the approval of the athletes.  I don’t believe the casual fan will see those differences – it will still be the same “fly to the ball”, gambling approach that has gained momentum over the course of last year – hopefully, with much improved play. 

With a year of tutelage under Coach Russell the special teams players will have a much better idea of what is expected of them and I would anticipate the play will go from “improved” to “good”.  Even with the improved depth, I would expect the staff to continue to use regular rotation players to meet needs and provide leadership.  I doubt that Choate’s exit will have any detrimental effect.
 

THE PLAYERS

The roster looks much different this year than it has recently, with quality depth at almost every position.  However, determining just who is available can be somewhat of a challenge for those outside of Leach’s world.  Who is injured? What is the injury? Where did he go? These are questions that go unanswered so often that they cease to be asked.  

Players seem to just disappear into the mist sometimes and everyone on the roster is “healthy” and “performing as expected”.   Guys like David Davis (who should be a RS Sophomore defensive lineman) just disappear from the roster. Others, like Henry Eaddy and Nui Sale appear to have been cut, but exit with no real explanation.   

For the purposes of this report I will assume that those on the roster who did not participate this spring have suffered injuries that are not season threatening and that those recovering from prior injuries will complete recovery their by fall.  Also, I will assume that Leach will continue to red-shirt as many of the incoming freshmen as possible and will exclude them from my “three deep” unless I think there is an exceptional need or exceptional talent – or maybe a little of both.


OFFENSIVE BACKFIELD

It was a minor miracle that the Cougars made it through last year playing only two QBs.  The 2012 Cougars suffered 57 sacks and 366 yards lost due to those sacks.  In addition, four running backs accumulated a total of only 642 yards for the entire season (after losses to sacks are factored in the average per carry was 1.4 yards).  While the blame is generally placed on the line there is plenty of it to go around.  Quarterbacks passed up the safer short options that the Air Raid provides and held the ball to long, looking for more yardage.  Halliday completed only 52% of his passes and Leach is looking for 70% (Tuel was better, at nearly 64%, but still not up to need).  Among the backs, only Carl Winston was average or better at picking up the oncoming rushers and provided the only real threat for banging through the line of scrimmage. 

This fall Winston will have graduated and Tuel will be in Buffalo.   Also moving on are back-up quarterbacks David Gilbertson and Cody Clements, who saw the writing on the wall with the rise of Austin Apodaca.  In addition walk-on QB Connor Johnson was moved to wide receiver, leaving only three players available at the position this spring. 

After all the above you may be asking, “where is the rosy optimism we look for in the Cougar Scouting Report?”   Well….it is partly in the fact that even with all the problems last year the Cougars still put up some very impressive passing yardage against some very good defenses.  Partly it is in the fact that the Cougars now have two QBs with a full year in the Leach system and that one of them has the strongest arm since Ryan Leaf.  Partly it is in the return of three experienced running backs, with real potential on the way this fall.  Maybe it is in the arrival of Coach Yost, who is something of a quarterback guru and could lend a hand with the QBs.  But mostly it is in a vision of a greatly improved front five, now schooled in the techniques of the wide split formations of the Air Raid attack.


Quarterback

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Connor Halliday, 6-4, 183, Junior (RS)

Austin Apodaca, 6-3, 191, Freshman (RS)

Tyler Bruggman, 6-2, 202, Freshman

The first thing Halliday must do is improve on his posing for team photographs.  The second is to improve his command of the Leach spread.  That he has Leach’s respect for his skills is evident from the coach’s use of him last year after Tuel had recovered from his injuries.  He has a tendency to rely too much on his strong arm and ignore the open receivers under the coverage but he showed good improvement in that area this spring and further practice in the system should be all he needs.  Apodaca got nothing but praise for his development this spring and should be more than adequate if Halliday goes down again.  In the end his accuracy and mobility could win the starting position, but I doubt it.  I had Jesse Brown, a walk-on who got a lot of reps this spring, at three but he was cut and Bruggman is the most likely in any case.  This highly touted recruit may not have Halliday’s arm strength but will eventually be both more mobile and more accurate and can go deep enough to meet the needs of the Air Raid.   

 

Running Back

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Teondray Caldwell, 5-9, 197, Sophomore

Marcus Mason, 5-9, 187, Junior

Leon Brooks, 5-7, 172, Senior (RS)

This is the position I am least sure of on the entire team.  It is possible that none of these three show up on the three deep chart for game one this fall.  Caldwell is has the best credentials of the returnees.  He was a sometime starter as a true freshman and had a respectable 4.8 yard per carry average.  Hopefully, a year in the system and a couple more pounds of muscle will give him the little extras that are needed.   Mason was the outside speedster and while he appeared in 11 games he only carried the ball 12 times and was more prolific as a receiver.   Leon Brooks actually had pretty good stats last year, when he did get the ball, but he too only had 12 carries.  He averaged 6.5 yards on those twelve and had a long of 40 yards.  He also averaged 10.6 yards on punt returns.  Soooo.., give him a hole and he will do some damage – just a little small for heavy use.     

 

Others

This is where the running back position gets interesting.  There are a whole bunch of options and the one dimension not lacking at the position is depth.   If Jenkins had actually transferred from Arizona, he would have been in my three deep and a candidate to become a fulltime starter, but there are other returnees.  Theron West, 5-7, 172 (Junior RS), a JC transfer that sat out last year and may be the fastest of the bunch.   Jeremiah Laufasa, 5-10, 213 (Sophomore RS) was the top rusher in the Crimson and Grey game and brings some punch up the middle (think Dan Doornick, not Jerome Harrison), as does Kyle Lappano, 5-11, 196 (Sophomore RS).  It is more than possible that Laufasa will see as much playing time as any of the others, given his blocking skills and ability to move the pile a little.

One of the commits this fall was Olito Thompson, 5-10, 210, who put up ridiculous numbers in high school.  But he is one of those “whose name is not spoken” – it is assumed he did not meet academic requirements and will grey-shirt, but that does not completely rule out his getting his act together before this fall.  The second option among the freshmen is Gerard Wicks, 5-10, 195 who has a power running style to go with his speed.  Either of these two could easily see playing time this year.  The third freshman RB is Jamal Morrow, 5-8, 180 but he seems to be a clone of returning players and my guess is that he is destined for the defensive backfield.   Assuming no Thompson, I still see good chance the three deep will include Wicks as the season plays out. 

I assume that Leach will wish to red-shirt both his incoming scholarship QBs.  But, should both Halliday and Apodaca go down, Bruggman seems to be the best bet for team success and Leach has said he will compete this fall. However, I look for him to red-shirt unless he is truly needed and one of the options below to be used for mop up.  My best guess is that Isaac Dotson, 6-3, 210 will be of the most value as a scout team QB, prepping the defense for the likes of Oregon, Arizona and Washington.  In the end, he will likely make his name as a safety or outside linebacker.

In addition there will be a bunch of walk-ons with QB experience this fall.  Luke Falk, 6-4, 218, comes from Logan Utah and was committed to Cornell.  He looks the part of a pro-style QB and could surprise everyone sometime down the road.  Instate product Austin Rapp, 6-2, 220, played QB at Sehome, but his value will likely be as a safety or linebacker.   I also hear a preferred walk-on from the DC area is arriving in June (Connor Ennis, 6-1, 170), along with Dominic Rockey, 6-2, 185, from Auburn (Washington, not Alabama).       


OFFENSIVE RECEIVERS

Now it gets exciting.  There is just so much talent in this group it is virtually impossible to predict who will fill the starting spots this August at Auburn (Alabama).   Also, I will make no bones about my inability to figure out what criteria the staff uses to determine which players will man the respective spots (X,Y,H & Z) in lineup.  [Last year Rickey Galvin and Andrei Lintz were listed as slot receivers – admittedly one was left (H) and one was right (Y) – but you can’t imagine more different body types and skill sets.]    So…., for the most part I will assign positions based on the designations in the Spring game and where players lined up last year, but with the intent of having the top eight somewhere in the two deep. 

No matter who takes the field they will be a nightmare for opposing defenses.  There is speed, size and good hands all around, with consummate route runners sprinkled in.  If there was a lack this spring it was the absence of the really big outside guy who can pick passes over the heads of normal sized safeties and corners.  Mansel Simmons filled that role coming into spring, but the injuries he sustained

in a campus fight with the Vandal players ended his football career.  That deficiency may be remedied  by an incoming JC transfer and the conversion of a former walk-on QB into the receiver ranks.

There are a couple of areas where work is need by the receiving corps as a whole.  One is dropped passes. While I indicated that “good hands” was a universal attribute, and that is true, it appears that the excitement of the moment sometimes overwhelmed and passes were fumbled that should have been caught – often in situations where the receiver was open and the pass was right on target.  The problem raised its head again in the spring game, however, it seems to me this is more a result of loss of focus due to inexperience than lack of ability.  The second problem is downfield blocking.  There is no reason players with the Cougars size and agility shouldn't’t excel in this endeavor – but they don’t, and it needs to be an area of emphasis this year. 

As a unit the Cougar receivers were ranked 4th in the PAC-12 this spring, by Bleacher Report, behind the likes of Oregon, Washington and USC.  I have no problem with that if you are talking about a starting three, but I don’t think there is a team in the conference which can match the quality depth of WSU.  The Air Raid needs eight and will have at least ten very good ones come fall.  No other team in the conference can match that.       


X—Split Left  

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Dominique Williams, 6-2, 192, Sophomore (RS)

Kristoff Williams, 6-2, 216, Junior (RS)

Vince Mayle, 6-3, 220, Junior

Dominique Williams really came on after Wilson left the team.  It was him making those catches down the sideline that had been the trademark of Marquess.   He ended up getting 546 yards, with an average of 16.1 per catch and a long of 61 yards.  And that was sitting behind Marquess Wilson for most of the season.  Fans have been waiting for Kristoff Williams live up to his potential and it looked like he may have “got it” this spring – but the same was said last spring.   If he keeps on playing the way he did towards the end of last year and this spring, it will be impossible to keep him off the field.  Big things are expected of Mayle, who brings tight end size and good athleticism to the position.  In JC he used that body to good advantage and both out muscled and out leaped defenders – can’t wait to see what he does on those end zone corner routes.   If all three of these players meet expectations moves will need to be made to get them on the field in other receiver positions. 
 

H – Slot Left

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Brett Bartolone, 5-10, 187, Sophomore

Rickey Galvin, 5-8, 174, Junior (RS)

Robert Lewis, 5-9, 152, Freshman

Bartolone came in as a true freshman and assumed the starting spot after Galvin went down to injury again.  He impressed Leach with his work ethic and mastery of the less flashy aspects of the position.  He ended the season as the leading target, with 53 catches.  He seemed to disappear at times but I would expect those lapses to be eliminated his sophomore year.  Galvin is something of a different type – not as steady and complete as Bartolone, but more explosive.  Expect to see him running sweeps and breaking away up the middle after a catch.  Lewis enrolled this January after committing as part of the 2012 class and spent the spring catching up with the other receivers.  He ended the camp with four catches in spring game.  He is both quick and fast and will bring the same type of explosiveness as Galvin, if he isn’t red-shirted. 

 

Z – Split Right

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Gabe Marks, 6-0, 176, Sophomore

Isiah, Myers, 6-0, 184, Junior

Tyler Baker, 5-10, 191, Sophomore (RS) 

Possibly the most interesting tidbit to some concerning Marks is that he was named to the Jewish Sports Review’s All-American team last year.   However, I am more interested in the fact that he played every game last year, as a true freshman (starting 8), was second in yardage (560) and averaged 11.6 per catch.  He faded a bit towards the end of the season but that can be expected of a freshman and it should not occur again.  Myers is not flashy but seems to be there when needed and makes a lot of those third and six catches that save a drive.  He had 49 grabs last year and averaged 10.4 per catch.  He just keeps getting better.  Baker is kind of the unknown at this position (assuming this is where he plays) and is a Texan who transferred after a year at Ole Miss.  I really have not seen enough of him to tell where he will fit in, but I assume a Texan with a scholarship to Ole Miss has to have talent. 

 

Y – Slot Right

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Bobby Ratliff, 6-2, 192, Junior (RS)

River Carcraft, 6-2, 205, Freshman

Conner Johnson, 6-5, 230, Freshman (RS)

Ratliff has been steady his throughout his first two years but started to turn it on in the last few games of 2012.  He had a 100 yard game against UCLA and pulled in six in the Arizona State game.  He kept the momentum going this spring and looks to have solid hold on a starting spot come fall.  His real competition will come from those listed above as X receivers.  Carcraft is the only incoming freshman I have put in the three deep.  That is because he fits the Leach dream sheet so closely.  He does all the little things well and is particularly good at shielding out defenders.  He brings height and weight as well as an understanding of the game.  I expect him to fit in right away.  Conner Johnson is the one eyed jack in the deck.  He is a walk-on that was moved from QB and just started to get his feet wet at the position this spring.  However, he is 6-5 and big enough to push people around, making him an interesting target if he can pick up a few of the nuances of the position. 

Others

The above players are just about all that have any chance of seeing the playing field next year and injuries will mean shuffling players around from various positions rather than moving a player off the scout team.  The only two left on the spring roster are Adam West, 5-11, 160, a walk-on transfer from Carroll College (a NIAI power) and Kyle Adkins, 6-1, 197 a walk-on red-shirt freshman from Woodinville.  This is not a real depth concern, since none in the three deep are seniors and it is chocked full of freshmen and sophomores.   It does leave a question about who is going to man the receiver positions on the scout team. 

So there you have it, the first part of OldSavage's 2013 preview.  We'll have more the rest of this week.  Enjoy your Monday, RISE & GRIND AND GO COUGS!

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