PULLMAN – Anthony Gordon and Washington State’s Air Raid offense will have a vital safety valve back in the mix for Saturday’s homecoming game against Colorado.
While the Cougars have been operational in the two games they’ve played without “Y” slot receiver Brandon Arconado, the offense hasn’t been fully functional since the redshirt senior left the Pac-12 opener against UCLA with an undisclosed lower-body injury.
A source told The Spokesman-Review on Monday that Arconado was expected to return in the near future. Gordon indicated after Tuesday’s practice that it’d be advantageous to have the “Y” receiver back in the fold, though Renard Bell, Travell Harris and Kassidy Woods have all filled in admirably in his absence.
“Renard and Travell and Kassidy, they do an awesome job playing the positions we ask them to do,” Gordon said. “But with that being said, Arconado’s had more reps at “Y,” so obviously, Arconado’s more acclimated to the “Y” position in itself. But Renard’s done a phenomenal job filling in, doing everything we ask him to do. He does everything with effort, with a smile on his face and he’s been playing really hard.
“Getting Arconado back’s pretty nice, too, but we love all the guys we have playing at these positions.”
It’s indisputable, though, that the Cougars have missed something without Arconado on the field. Woods is the only other true “Y” receiver on the offensive depth chart, and as a redshirt freshman who played on the outside last season, he’s still adjusting to life in the slot.
Bell and Harris are experienced slot receivers, although they’ve played more strictly at the “H” position, which typically lines up on the left side of the formation, whereas the “Y” lines up on the right.
Measuring Arconado’s value isn’t as simple as looking at WSU’s record in the games he’s played versus those he hasn’t, simply because the strength of schedule changed drastically once the Cougars entered Pac-12 play. Yet there’s no doubt Arconado could have pitched in somehow during the 38-13 loss to Utah – the only game this season in which the offense failed to score 30 points and the only one in which Gordon failed to throw for 400 yards, instead accumulating 252.
The receiver statistics are indicative of Arconado’s value. Even after missing two full games and part of another, he’s still third among WSU’s wide receivers in receptions (25) and receiving yards (352). Arconado had led the Cougars in receiving yards and was one reception shy of team leader Easop Winston Jr. entering the Week 5 game at Utah.
While the savvy, sure-handed Arconado adds a certain dimension to the Air Raid – especially when opposing defenses shift more of their attention to the tall, strong, dynamic pass-catchers WSU has on the outside – Winston believes the Cougars have enough depth to overcome the absence of a single wideout.
“No, man, we all have our own skill sets. Of course we miss Brandon, but at the end of the day, it’s always next man up,” he said. “We would’ve loved to have him in those games, but at the end of the day, we’re deep at every position, I feel like, so no matter who’s in, they’re going to make a play and I trust all those guys inside and out.”
Fortunately, the inside guy the Cougars seem to trust the most won’t have to watch the offense stagger without him Saturday against the Buffaloes.
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