Note: This is the fourth of eight position previews of Washington State University’s 2011 football team. Today: Running backs and tight ends. Wednesday: Defensive line.
PULLMAN – When Washington State’s running backs huddle together prior to practice, it looks a bit like a jockey convention.
With one big horse in the middle.
“Today, I walked over after a drill and I was like, ‘damn, I can see over all your heads clearly,’” said Logwone Mitz with a laugh. “It is crazy.”
At 6-foot-1 and 223 pounds, Mitz, a fifth-year senior, is expected to be the powerful workhorse of Washington State’s running attack.
But it’s 5-8 redshirt freshman Rickey Galvin who is excepted to supply the speed and flash. The two shared snaps with the first-team offense the first week of preseason camp.
If either falter, either junior Carl Winston (5-8), sophomore Leon Brooks (5-7) or true freshman Marcus Mason (5-9) is expected to step in.
But when it comes to the WSU running game, it’s all expectation right now.
Mitz, who has played in 37 games for the Cougars, has rushed for just 954 yards in three years, though he’s averaged a hair under 4 yards per carry. And Galvin, who has been considered a future star since he stepped on campus, took one snap last year, gained two yards, had his arm snap and watched the rest of the 2-10 season from the sidelines.
“As a group, it’s been up mostly but it’s been down as well,” Mitz said of the running backs’ performance in preseason camp. “We’re looking for consistency. Consistency is what we need.”
From what coach Paul Wulff has seen thus far in camp, his expectations have been raised.
“Right now they’re all doing well,” Wulff said.
And there is one guy who has caught his eye, the 191-pound Winston.
“I’ve been impressed with Carl Winston,” Wulff said. “The reason why is he’s been really consistent. He’s coming off an injury from the spring … but he’s playing good football and he’s going to get better.”
But don’t expect one player, not even Mitz or Galvin, to carry all the load. The Cougars will give four or five backs their shot, depending on the circumstances and need.
Mitz, however, is still the draft horse.
“I’m the leader out here,” Mitz said. “I’ve been through all the BS and I have sometimes have to take control of things when Jeff (Tuel) gets tired of doing it.
“As a senior I have to step up. I’m not really a vocal person, but I’ve got of come out of my comfort zone and lead.”
If you look at the stats, the tight end position wasn’t an integral part of the Washington State offense last year.
After all, Andrei Lintz was the only tight end that caught a pass, a 4-yard touchdown against Montana State.
But the tight ends on the roster team with the fullbacks to fill not only the role of short-yardage blockers or receivers from the line, but also cover the H-back role, coming from the backfield to either block or catch passes.
That spot took a hit last season when Jared Byers suffered a major knee injury in the opener against Oklahoma State and missed the rest of the season.
But Byers is back, Lintz has been mentioned by more than one of his teammates as the most improved player over the offseason and heralded freshman Aaron Dunn, who redshirted last season, has been having a strong preseason.
“We’ve matured at the position,” said tight end coach Rich Rasmussen, who also is the Cougars recruiting coordinator.
“Andrei had a great spring and is continuing to have a really good fall,” Rasmussen continued. “We’ve got a lot of confidence in his ability from what he’s shown on the practice field – he’s got to carry it over into a game for us now.
“Having Jared back has been huge. He’s a guy whose played a lot of football for us and we missed it last year.”