FROM SALT LAKE CITY -- There's some sort of basketball tournament starting this week, but Washington State also begins its spring football practices on Thursday. Just to whet your appetite -- and to have an excuse to use the word "whet" -- here's a look at where the Cougars stand at each offensive position. We'll look at the defense tomorrow.
A couple of caveats: the players listed are based on what the roster reflects at present, but the roster hasn't been updated since the end of the season. We know about the defections of players like Cody Clements (transfer) and David Gilbertson (graduated with a year of eligiblity left), but it's entirely possible that a handful of other scholarship players or a walk-on or two (or three, or four) have left the program. We'll know for sure when the spring roster is released tomorrow (presumably, anyway. It will at least be out there by Thursday).
Anyway, here's what the offense looks like, near as we can tell at this point.
The players: Connor Halliday, RS-Jr.; Austin Apodaca, RS-Fr.; Jesse Brown, RS-So.; Conner Johnson, RS-Fr
The outlook: It’s been pretty well estimated that this is a two-man race between Halliday and Apodaca, and I’d wager that’s an accurate way to describe it. This will be Halliday’s first healthy spring practice since the spring before the 2011 season. If you’ll recall, he was limited last year after aggravating his liver injury on the first day of spring ball, turning what was supposed to be a competition with Jeff Tuel into a one-man show. With Tuel gone, the job seems Halliday’s to lose, though his shaky performance last year has some wondering if Apodaca might have a shot at the job. It seems it would take a pretty big spring for Apodaca to head into the fall as a true challenger, considering the experience Halliday has. Behind those two, it’s hard to say who might shake out as the No. 3, now that David Gilbertson and Cody Clements have left the program. Keep in mind that freshmen Tyler Bruggman and Aaron Dotson will arrive in the fall, along with Luke Falk, reportedly.
The players: Leon Brooks, RS-Sr.; Teondray Caldwell, So.; Manuel Lamson, RS-So.; Marcus Mason, Jr.; Theron West, RS-Jr.; Kyle Lappano, RS-So.; Jeremiah Laufasa
The outlook: It’s hard to know how many of the walk-ons will stick around this season – there’s always some natural attrition there – but the bigger question is obviously who will emerge as WSU’s top back. Last season, the Cougars used a three-man rotation of Carl Winston, Caldwell and Brooks, with Mason seeing some carries later in the season due to injury to players head of him on the depth chart. Winston is the only running back who graduated. Caldwell seemed to slip ahead of the others toward the end of the year, but was held back a bit by a concussion. He and Brooks have the experience edge. If West has a better understanding of the offense, his speed could get him on the field some. Keep in mind, too, that Arizona transfer Daniel Jenkins, a senior, is expected to be in the fold in the fall.
The players: Tyler Baker, RS-So; Brett Bartolone, So.; Bennett Bontemps, Sr.; Henry Eaddy, Jr.; Gabe Marks, So.; Brett McDonald, RS-So.; Daniel McDonald, RS-Jr.; Isiah Myers, Jr.; Michael Newman, RS-Fr.; Bobby Ratliff, RS-Jr.; Mansel Simmons, RS-So.; Dominique Williams, RS-So.; Kristoff Williams, RS-Jr.; Rickey Galvin, RS-Jr.; Robert Lewis, Fr.
The outlook: The Cougars have pretty much everybody back here, save for the notable exception of Marquess Wilson – though he’s long gone – and Gino Simone. The top three players at the inside receiver position appear to be Bartolone, Ratliff and Galvin, who is healthy and ready to go after breaking his arm last season. On the outside, both Myers and Dominique Williams started to come on at the end of last season. Marks, who could play either inside or outside, had more catches than any returning player except Bartolone. And if Kristoff Williams is healthy and stays that way, he could challenge for playing time on the outside, too. This spring will be about those players developing rhythm with Halliday and Apodaca, a process that should be expedited by the fact that everyone has had a year in the system by now.
The players: Matt Adamson, RS-Fr.; Brent Anderson, RS-Fr.; Elliott Bosch, RS-Sr.; Zach Brevick, RS-Sr.; Joe Dahl, RS-So.; Denzell Dotson, RS-Fr.; Gunnar Eklund, RS-So.; Sam Flor, RS-Fr.; Rico Forbes, RS-Sr.; John Fullington, Sr.; Matt Goetz, RS-Sr.; Eduardo Middleton, RS-Fr.; Jake Rodgers, RS-Jr.; Niu Sale, RS-Jr.; Pierson Villarubia, RS-Fr.; Jeff Waldner, RS-Jr.; Jacob Seydel, Jr.; B.J. Salmonson, Fr.
The outlook: A whole lot of youth here, but a bit of experience, too. Bosch, Fullington and Rodgers were regular starters last season – Fullington and Rodgers each played some at tackle and guard – and Eklund and Goetz both stepped into starting roles after injuries decimated this group. Offensive line coach Clay McGuire said all season that he liked the way Dahl, Dotson and Middleton performed in practice, and Seydel is a junior college transfer who can help them right away. Don’t forget about Forbes, who appeared to be in line for a starting tackle job before tearing his ACL at the beginning of fall practices.