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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Cougars receiver Isiah Myers adds discipline to game

PULLMAN – There is nothing unusual about the fact that the current Pac-12 leader in receptions and receiving yards plays for Washington State – the Cougars have attempted more passes than any other team in the country. But it’s a little strange when that player has not been listed as a starter on the depth chart once this season. Of the nearly one dozen catches Isiah Myers made in Saturday’s 59-21 win over Portland State, his last was probably his finest, and certainly it was his strongest. With just more than 8 minutes left and the game well in hand, quarterback Connor Halliday tossed a pass 20 yards down the right sideline. Despite heavy interference from a cornerback, Myers jumped up to make the catch while never losing his forward momentum. The receiver landed on his feet and the defensive back fell to the turf. The DB managed one last grasp at Myers’ leg but was shaken free and hopped over by the senior receiver, who trotted the remaining 35 yards to the end zone without obstruction. The play was a show of newfound strength from Myers, who gained 10-plus pounds since last season. “He did a really good job this offseason,” said strength coach Jason Loscalzo. “The biggest thing with him is he’s always been a great athlete. He’s always been a hard worker. He’s just always been inconsistent up until about January, February of this year.” Loscalzo said Myers took a while to “buy in” to the demands of WSU’s coaching staff. Myers freely admits that his inconsistent playing time and production reflected the level of effort he was devoting to the game. “Obviously, I slacked off a little bit,” Myers said. “I’m not saying that I did it on purpose. It just kind of happens. Some people outperformed me and that’s just the results.” Strength plays a key role on the football field, even for players whose job it is to avoid contact once the ball is in their hands. An outside receiver like Myers is expected to block, fight off defensive backs at the line of scrimmage and power through traffic to make a catch. By adding strength, a receiver is better able to make use of his speed and will take longer to tire late in games. “It’s a physical game on the outside and you’re not getting any help from anybody,” Loscalzo said. “When Myers goes 1-on-1 against some of the corners in this league and some of the safeties in this league, they’re big kids. He has to be able to compete with them.” He finished with 11 receptions for 227 yards and three scores against the Vikings, giving him 423 receiving yards and five touchdowns through the season’s first three games. That’s 2 fewer yards and two more touchdowns than he had all last year. He’s always been one of the quickest players on the team. He has good hands and comes out of his breaks cleanly and efficiently, keeping his speed. “He’s always had that flash to him,” WSU head coach Mike Leach said. “He’s a little more disciplined now, a little more precise.” By adding the physical element to his game, he’s been able to make use of his of his other advantages. “I’ve been talking about that since the day he got here,” quarterback Connor Halliday said after the PSU game. “He’s the best route-runner I’ve ever seen and I’ve always been in Isiah’s corner. I’ve been waiting for a game like this for him to blow up for everybody else to see it, and it’s nice to see that he’s done that.” Credit for Myers’ eye-catching numbers must also go the rest of his receiving corps and the attention the other receivers get from the defense. Vince Mayle, River Cracraft and Dom Williams each have at least two touchdowns, and all average more than 80 receiving yards per game. Mayle, in particular, seems to be a focal point for opposing defense. He plays X outside receiver, opposite Myers, who plays Z outside receiver. The Vikings gambled and adjusted on defense to try and take the X receiver out of the Cougars’ offensive equation. “That leaves a lapse or a gap in one of those areas and Isiah benefitted from it,” outside receivers coach Dennis Simmons said. “And what I think I’m most proud of him is that he maximized every opportunity that he had last week.” Those opportunities came in part thanks to an undisclosed injury to starting Z receiver Kristoff Williams, who pulls double duty as the team’s primary kickoff returner. Myers started last week’s game and will likely start this week as well, even if the depth chart indicates otherwise.