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WSU camp position previews, plus links

COUGARS

FROM PULLMAN — We're back on the east side after a quicker-than-usual drive from Seattle yesterday afternoon, gearing up to cover Washington State's first fall camp under coach Mike Leach. He'll meet with the media today at about 1 p.m., but first, we have a quick look at each position heading into camp, along with some other stories you should read.


First, the links. … There's a report in the Los Angeles Times — OK, on its website —  that a cornerback who had been committed to California, Raymond Ford, has signed with Washington State and will join the Cougars this season. There's been no official word from WSU, though as we said, Leach meets with the media later today and we'll have the chance to ask him about it then. … CBS Sports offers some fall camp storylines. … Brian Floyd offers some newcomers to watch.

On to your position previews. Since we did this pre-spring, we'll just keep these brief and use it as a means of catching you up to speed.

QUARTERBACK

The depth — Jeff Tuel, Sr. / Connor Halliday, RS-So. / David Gilbertson, RS-Jr.

The skinny — Seems as if Tuel will almost certainly be the starter heading into the season, though Leach said at the end of spring that Halliday would have his chance to prove himself in the fall. Still, Tuel put so much separation between the two in the spring with Halliday recovering from injury that pretty much everyone expects him to start the opener at BYU. If Halliday shows well, though, things could get interesting down the road.

RUNNING BACK

The depth — Rickey Galvin, RS-So. OR Carl Winston, Sr. / Teondray Caldwell, Fr.

The skinny — Leach had nice things to say about each of his backs during the spring — their size and build seem to fit his offense pretty well. It's interesting that Marcus Mason isn't among the first three backs listed on the depth, though Galvin and Winston did seem to earn some separation in the spring. Running backs coach Jim Mastro liked Leon Brooks' ability to catch passes in the screen game, too. Lots still to play out at this spot.

OFFENSIVE LINE

The depth — LT John Fullington, Jr. / Gunnar Eklund, RS-Fr.; LG Wade Jacobson, RS-Sr. / Dan Spitz, RS-Sr.; C Matt Goetz, RS-JR. / Elliot Bosch, RS-Jr. / Taylor Meighen, Sr.; RG Dan Spitz, RS-Sr. / Jake Rodgers, RS-So. / RT Rico Forbes, RS-Jr. / Gunnar Eklund, RS-Fr.

The skinny — This unit is aided by the return of Jacobson, who was limited during the spring while recovering from back surgery. Goetz and Rodgers missed chunks of time, too. Of the newcomers, JC transfer Niu Sale figures to have the best shot of being in the mix this season. This remains an area of need, especially in terms of depth. It gets a little shaky, in terms of experience, after those first eight guys or so.

RECEIVER

The depth — X Marquess Wilson, Jr. / Dominique Williams, RS-Fr.; Y Andrei Lintz, RS-Sr. / Bobby Ratliff, RS-So.; H Bennett Bontemps, Jr. / Gino Simone, Sr. / Blair Bomber, RS-So.; Z Kristoff Williams, RS-So. / Isiah Myers, So. / Drew Loftus, RS-Fr.

The skinny — For a team that lost their second and third-leading receivers from last season, the Cougars are pretty well-stocked here, and that's before you figure in the arrival of the highly touted Gabriel Marks, along with a few other newcomers who were given high marks by the various recruiting services (for example, college football guru Phil Steele projected Marks as a starter in his annual preview magazine. Take that for what you will). Of the 10 players at receiver on WSU's two-deep, seven of them caught at least one pass last year — though Ratliff is the only returning receiver, other than Wilson, who had double-digit catches.

DEFENSIVE LINE

The depth — RT Xavier Cooper, RS-Fr. / Lenard Williams, Sr.; NT Kalafitoni Pole, RS-So.; LT Steven Hoffart, RS-Sr.

The skinny — A bit of work to do here. OK, a lot of work to do here. Anthony Laurenzi was listed as the starter at left tackle and the backup at nose tackle just a week ago, but he's since been dismissed. And WSU's depth along the line is hurting. Matthew Bock will be in the mix here after seeing a decent amount of reps in the spring, and newcomers Ioane Gauta (a JC transfer), Destiny Vaeao (a true freshman) and Robert Barber (a true freshman) could get their chance pretty early on to prove they belong on the two-deep. Justin Clayton missed most of the spring after a knee injury. Adam Coerper could be in the mix, too. As a unit, probably the biggest question mark on the team at present.

LINEBACKER

The depth — BUCK Travis Long, Sr. / Logan Mayes, So.; SAM Eric Oertel, Jr. / Cyrus Coen, So.; MIKE Darryl Monroe, RS-Fr. / Darren Markle, RS-Jr.; WILL Chester Su'a, So. / Jared Byers, RS-Jr. / Tana Pritchard, RS-Fr.

The skinny — Another spot where developing depth will be key this fall, though plenty more was resolved here during spring than most expected. Monroe and Oertel emerged as aggressive leaders, and Su'a picked up where he left off after earning a few starts as a true freshman — though Monroe and Su'a missed time toward the end of spring practice due to injury. Long will line up all over. Beyond those four, it gets a little thinner. Byers made some strides after moving over from fullback, but there's still work to be done there. Coen earned praise from coaches throughout spring, though he's inexperienced, like most of the rest of this group. Newcomers Jeremiah Allison, Khalil Pettway, Keith Ewing and Kache Palacio could help provide depth.

DEFENSIVE BACKS

The depth — CB Daniel Simmons, RS-Sr. / Tracy Clark, RS-So.; SS Deone Bucannon, Jr. / Anthony Carpenter, RS-Jr.; FS Tyree Toomer, RS-Sr. OR Casey Locker, RS-Jr. / CB Damante Horton, Jr. / Nolan Washington, RS-Jr.

The skinny — Plenty of experience here, though a few bumps and bruises to shake off. Toomer and Locker were both banged up toward the end of spring. Washington was limited while recovering from shoulder surgery. Washington vs. Horton or Simmons could be a battle to watch, if Washington is fully healthy. At safety, Bucannon appears to have his spot locked down, though it's interesting that Toomer and Locker are listed with the “or” tag at free safety. Health, again, will be key there. Newcomers include David Bucannon, Feddie Davey and Taylor Taliulu.

SPECIALISTS

Kicker — Seems pretty straightforward here — Andrew Furney will kick field goals and extra points, and Michael Bowlin will handle kickoffs and punts.

Kick returner — Rahmel Dockery is listed as the No. 1 guy here, with Rickey Galvin behind him. Don't be surprised if a number of guys get a look here during fall.

Punt returner — Leon Brooks, Galvin and Dockery are listed in that order with the “or” tag. So plenty to settle here.

Christian Caple can be reached at christianc@spokesman.com. Twitter: @ChristianCaple


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