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WSU vs. Grambling State: 3 things to watch

The Spokesman-Review

1 Ruben Mayes is on the field

No, the former WSU star running back isn’t aiming for a collegiate comeback. (Different spelling, anyway.) This time, the name belongs to a running back from the opposing team, Grambling State. Mayes is a junior fullback and one of the Tigers’ better players, running for 5.8 yards a carry last season and garnering first-team All-SWAC honors.

Aside from sharing a name with a WSU legend, Mayes will be important in this game because the Tigers play an I-formation offense, with Mayes directly in front of tailback Ab Kuuan. More often than not in those offensive schemes, the fullback will tell a defense where the play is going to go. (Think Mack Strong in front of Shaun Alexander if you’re a Seahawks fan.) Follow Mayes and you’ll likely be a step ahead of the action when Grambling’s offense is on the field.

2 Byrd vs. Hatcher

Since the game isn’t supposed to be much of a contest, it might be interesting to lock in on how one of the most intriguing one-on-one matchups plays out. WSU left tackle Bobby Byrd could spend much of his day singled up on Grambling defensive end Jason Hatcher, a senior who is drawing attention from NFL scouts this year.

About the only thing that figures to disrupt the WSU offense today is pressure on the quarterback, and Hatcher is the most likely candidate to apply that pressure. Byrd is in his first season at left tackle and this will be his first difficult test against a defensive end on par with some of those in the Pac-10. How he handles Hatcher could be an indicator of how he’ll do later in the year – and how much time quarterback Alex Brink will spend on the trainer’s table.

3 Tennessee at Florida

Yeah, we know this space is reserved for WSU football. But let’s face it: Today’s game isn’t on television, and with a Division I-AA opponent coming to Seattle, Urban Meyer’s SEC debut will probably be a lot more interesting anyway.

Tennessee is going to have to deal with a muddled situation at quarterback, as Erik Ainge and Rick Clausen have shared time already. Coach Philip Fulmer has been under pressure to pick the right guy for this game, and whoever it is under center will have a good running back in Gerald Riggs Jr. to help out. The Gators have no such problems at quarterback. Chris Leak has taken to Meyer’s offense nicely, throwing for almost 270 yards a game with five touchdowns and no interceptions. So don’t worry about the Cougars game if Grambling State doesn’t do it for you.

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