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Kyrin Priester’s evolution as inside receiver for WSU comes quickly

WSU receiver Kyrin Priester has impressed coaches as a quick study in moving from an outside position to an inside one. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
WSU receiver Kyrin Priester has impressed coaches as a quick study in moving from an outside position to an inside one. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

PULLMAN – During a recent Washington State football practice, Kyrin Priester caught a pass a few yards short of scoring, and took the path of most resistance into the end zone, barreling over ballyhooed freshman safety Jalen Thompson on his way.

The score provided an opening for some braggadocio from Priester, who backed up the talk with another touchdown just a couple of plays later, this time soaring to catch a high pass after shaking a defender on a crossing route.

Of course, that score led to more bravado from the receiver.

“I think Kyrin Priester is one of the most confident guys we have,” inside receivers coach JaMarcus Shephard said. “He really thinks he can do it all.”

The junior receiver is not alone in that regard. Evaluators have held Priester’s talent in high regard ever since he was one of the most coveted prep recruits in the country, eventually accepting a scholarship to Clemson.

Differences with the coaching staff led to Priester leaving the Tigers early in his freshman year, but the Clemson coaches supported his transfer to WSU and thus there were no restrictions against his playing for the Cougars last year.

Although Priester played in all 13 games, making 34 catches and scoring a touchdown, it wasn’t quite the impact he had hoped for. Playing behind a capable, productive senior at X-receiver in Dom Williams, Priester had only a spot role, in addition to occasional opportunities as a returner on punts or kickoffs.

“I don’t think playing-wise I did what I wanted to do,” Priester said. “I just played my role and helped my team.”

Although Williams graduated, Priester moved inside to Y-receiver this year, where he will have to split time with another established veteran in River Cracraft. Furthermore, the inside receivers only accounted for 30.8 percent of WSU’s catches last season, while the outside receivers were more often targeted, accounting for 46.4 percent of WSU’s receptions (running backs received the remaining catches).

But Priester has had an undeniable impact this spring, and the coaching staff has been impressed by how quickly he’s taken to the new position.

“He’s doing a lot of good things,” Mike Leach said. “He does a good job getting upfield, does a good job taking the ball away from people. He’s pretty explosive and he’s getting better all the time.”

Priester does have one advantage that sets him apart from his teammates at inside receiver that was not so unique last year his size. At 6-foot-1, 194-pounds, Priester can take a hit and keep moving better than WSU’s more diminutive receivers, and he has the explosiveness and speed to get out of trouble quickly.

The size showed up during a play in Tuesday’s practice when Priester broke up what appeared to be a sure interception, drawing as much praise from Shephard as any other play he’s made this spring.

“The thing that is most impressive about Kyrin is his ability to come into the meeting room, watch the film, see the things that we want corrected and actually make those corrections on the field,” Shephard said. “A lot of times you bring kids in and it takes a bunch of reps for them to actually get it. But Kyrin does a good job of immediately responding.”

Of course, despite Priester’s size advantage and his goal-line success, his coaches would prefer he run around defenders, not through them, when possible. It’s an area he has improved in already this spring, and one to watch this spring and throughout the fall as he continues to transition to inside receiver.

“I’m starting to learn to not get tackled a lot, try to have less bang-ups and stay away from the linebackers and everything,” Priester said. “I’m finding open spots now and the quarterbacks are hitting me a little bit more.”

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