We put together a feature on the three Florida high school kids who enrolled early at Washington State as a kickoff to spring football, which starts Monday afternoon. But we didn't believe that was enough of the nuts and bolts stuff. So we put together another piece that is only available here. Read on.
• So what will Washington State try to accomplish during spring football? Asked that question, Paul Wulff gave an in-depth answer this week, centered on leadership. “We want to get more comfortable in our execution of what we're doing,” he said. “I would like to see the players be able to show tremendous leadership and run the drills. Have great leadership in our defensive area, to be able to take control and run that huddle and run that unit. The same thing on offense, to have a tremendous amount of leadership and confidence in what we are doing. And hopefully have enough leadership that we don't have to have a coach in the huddle all the time. They can take it and run with it. That's when you start really growing as a program. That's a step I would like to see.” … But spring is a time to make fundamental improvements at each position, from quarterback to long snapper. So let's look at each unit and what WSU will be trying to work on over the next month.
• Quarterback: Junior Jeff Tuel is the starter, of course, but there will be a three-way battle to back him up. Senior Marshall Lobbestael is the incumbent, so to speak, but Wulff had good things to say as well about David Gilberton, the walk-on from Woodinville, and Connor Halliday, from Spokane's Ferris High. … Dan Wagner is no longer listed as a quarterback. He's the only punter. But if there is an emergency, Wagner is always ready.
• Running back: This is a spot Wulff pointed out as one that has to be sorted out. Senior big back Logwone Mitz (6-foot-1, 230 pounds) is listed atop the depth chart, but watch out for freshman Rickey Galvin, who Wulff said is fully healed from his broken arm. He was expected to play a lot last year. Carl Winston and Leon Brooks are also here. … Arthur Burns, who has moved from running back to linebacker back to running back, injured a wrist in a weight-room accident and will have to undergo surgery.
• Tight end and H-back: The tight ends once again rarely played down the stretch, but it is a position WSU wants to use. Freshman Aaron Dunn's wrist is healed and he will battle with Skylar Stormo and Andrei Lintz for time. … Jared Byers, whose knee was decimated at Oklahoma State, is still out, though he may be able to do some drills.
• Receiver: The team's strength. Marquess Wilson, Jared Karstetter, Gino Simone and Isiah Barton all played and contributed last year. So this spring is about the new folks. Kristoff Williams has yet to go 100 percent in workouts, but his toe should be healed enough to allow for some full-speed work this spring. Bobby Ratliff, another redshirt freshman, showed skills last season and it will be interesting to see if he's added muscle. Bennett Bontemps walked on and played and Blair Bomber was the scout team's offensive player of the year. … Two of the three Florida freshmen, Henry Eaddy and Isiah Myers, play here.
• Offensive line: Though the group has four starters returning, nothing is secure. Not after another season of 50-plus sacks and an impotent running game. But, from left tackle to right tackle, seniors David Gonzalez (coming off a broken arm), Wade Jacobson, B.J. Guerra and sophomore John Fullington should hold off challengers. The center spot is up in the air, with Andrew Roxas and junior college transfer Taylor Meighen the frontrunners. But Wulff said a lot of guys, even guys at other positions, could get a look at the center position. … Dan Spitz is coming off shoulder surgery and will be limited.
• Defensive line: With Travis Long (shoulder) and Jordan Pu'u Robinson (knee) extremely limited, the defensive end spot is thin. So much so junior college transfer Ian Knight is listed as a starter, though Wulff said that's just a list, no one has won a job yet. Inside is better, with Anthony Laurenzi, Justin Clayton and Toni Pole all listed at the run-stopping defensive tackle spot. Brandon Rankin, who said he's added weight in the offseason, is the three-technique tackle, though Steven Hoffart may give him a run. … Xavier Cooper, an end from Tacoma, grayshirted and will take the field for the first time.
• Linebacker: A deep group that will only get deeper in the fall when some touted freshmen arrive. But for now, sophomores Sekope Kaufusi and Eric Oertel gets to show what they can do on the strongside, while C.J. Mizell mans with middle, with freshman Darryl Monroe an intriguing backup. On the weakside, Alex Hoffman-Ellis has been spending the offseason strengthening his back, trying to ensure he'll be able to get through his senior season without pain. … Louis Bland, arrested recently in a domestic dispute, is still suspended.
• Defensive backs: Due to injuries, a lot of guys played here last season. The emergence of Deone Bucannon at strong safety was an eye-opener, but despite all his tackles, Bucannon made numerous freshmen mistakes. There are a couple surprises on the depth chart, including a healthy Daniel Simmons still listed behind senior Aire Justin, who came on late last season. … Tracy Clark, arrested recently on a burglary charge, has been cleared to practice. … Jack Wilson, the walk-on from Gonzaga Prep who played often on the special teams last year, decided not to turn out, Wulff said.
• Kicker: Andrew Furney won the job last season but he will have to prove he can handle the kickoff chores as well. Alex Gauper, from Spokane's Lewis and Clark High, will push him. … Blake Dunn is no longer with the team.
• Punter: Dan Wagner holds the fort during spring, though there should be some more competition come fall with the incoming class.
• Long snapper: Walk-on Zach Koepp worked with Zach Enyeart last season and is the only long snapper on the roster. But Travis Long and Alex Reitnouer have done some of the practice work in the past and Wulff said some of the incoming players have experience. But, he added, if it looks as if there is a need after the spring, he'll look for someone over summer.
• That's it for tonight. We'll be back in the morning. Until then …