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Fri., Aug. 21, 2009, 3:31 p.m.

WSU’s young receivers ready to make a mark


It took me a while, but I finally got this story ready for you to read. On the link you'll find the receivers position preview. Read on.

• Here's the story …

PULLMAN – Jared Karstetter looks around the practice field and notices something surprising. He's one of Washington State University's most experienced wide receivers.

"It's almost a passing of the torch a little bit," the sophomore from Spokane's Ferris High said this week. "Hopefully we can keep the receiving tradition here going."

Karstetter is able to rattle off a list of recent WSU receivers who set records and moved on to the NFL, including Jason Hill, Michael Bumpus and last year's teammate, Brandon Gibson. But this is a new group and a new year.

Of the dozen wide receivers on WSU's roster, only one, walk-on Colin Huemmer, is a senior. And only juniors Daniel Blackledge and Jeshua Anderson, both currently nursing injuries, have more Cougar game experience than Karstetter and fellow sophomore Kevin Norrell.

Which is fine with WSU's long-time receivers coach Mike Levenseller, whose name also appears on many of the Cougars' career receiving lists.

A couple of the reasons Levenseller likes this group is the quick maturity Karstetter showed last season – as a freshman he caught just six passes, but one was the 48-yard, last-minute reception that set up the Apple Cup-tying field goal – and the strides Norrell made over the off-season.

"Kevin Norrell and Jared Karstetter should have been redshirt guys," Levenseller said of last year's 2-11 season. "But, by going through last year, the growing pains, they've both really surfaced. Now you think this year, we're deep enough, I can redshirt those guys. You can't, because they're two good players.

"Right now, we would be dead in the water without Kevin Norrell being able to play two positions," added Levenseller, who had earmarked Norrell for the flanker spot. "He's playing the split end spot and playing really well. ... He's doing wonderfully in that regard. I'm very proud of him and what he's doing."

Norrell's versatility is showing this fall, as four receivers expected to battle for starting spots – Anderson, Blackledge and transfers Johnny Forzani and Jeffrey Solomon – have been out for much of camp. All four are expected back before the Sept. 5 season opener against Stanford.

"The good thing it is now," Levenseller said. "If it's a week from now, now I'm worried."

One person who has taken advantage of the injury-created opportunity is Gino Simone. The diminutive (5-foot-11, 174-pound) freshman from Skyline High in Sammamish, Wash., has opened eyes with his precise route running, his hands and his toughness.

"He's shown a maturity level," Levenseller said. "I'm impressed by his aggressiveness."

Despite the possibility of a true freshman starting the opening game, Karstetter believes WSU's receiving corps is improved.

"As a unit I think we're balanced and tough," Karstetter said. "If everyone is willing to keep learning from (Levenseller), the sky's the limit for this group.

"We've got enough diverse guys ... we'll be just fine."


• And here is a sidebar on the tight ends …

PULLMAN – All Rich Rasmussen wants from the Washington State University tight ends is consistency.

The Cougars' tight end coach and recruiting coordinator knows what he's going to get in starter Tony Thompson, who is wearing No. 14 this year to honor his father, WSU quarterback legend Jack Thompson

The younger Thompson played in 10 games last year, catching four passes, after walking-on in 2005 and filling the long-snapper role the next season.

But the other spot – the Cougars use two tight ends quite often – is still a toss up. Of the other four candidates – senior Zach Tatman, junior Aaron Gehring and freshmen Skylar Stormo and Andrei Lintz – only Gehring, a walk-on, has played a down for WSU.

"Other than Tony, none of those guys have a ton of experience," Rasmussen said. "The encouraging thing is they are growing every day.

"I wish the learning curve was happening a little faster in some regards."


• Two deeps

As determined by me, so take it for what it’s worth …

(Height, weight, year and 2008 starts in parentheses)


Kevin Norrell (6-foot, 190, So., 6)

Jeshua Anderson* (6-2, 192, Jr., 11)


Gino Simone (5-11, 174, Fr., dnp)

Nick Proen (6-foot, 193, RS So., 0)


Jared Karstetter (6-4, 205, So., 3)

Daniel Blackledge* (6-0, 175, Jr., 4)

Tight end

Tony Thompson (6-2, 239, RS Sr., 1)

Skylar Stormo (6-5, 245, RS Fr., dnp)

* Currently injured


• That's what we have for you today. We'll be back early tomorrow with our morning post. Remember, practice starts at 8 a.m. Until then …

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Vince Grippi
Vince Grippi is a freelance local sports blogger for He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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