Scouting report: Washington State offense

Mike Leach has returned to Provo, Utah to face his alma mater this Thursday. His Washington State offense apparently will look more like the offenses during BYU's golden age than BYU's current offense will. Let's take a look at what to expect.

Offensive line

There are some question marks on Washington State's offensive line, with players being moved around a lot.

The left tackle position will be manned by three-year starter John Fullington (6-5, 300 pounds). A potential NFL prospect, Fullington will have the tall order of protecting WSU's quarterback (presumably Jeff Tuel) from Will linebacker Kyle Van Noy.

"Yeah, I've watched both of their tackles quite a bit and they've switched their line up, so you don't really know who's going to play what position," said Van Noy. "I'm ready for whoever and I'm ready for [Fullington]. They're just like any other tackle."

Earlier in fall camp, there were reports that junior Matt Goetz (6-4, 272 pounds) appeared to have beaten out senior Wade Jacobson for the starting left guard spot. However, reports have come out on Wednesday that it now appears that Jacobson could have secured his position back. The official Washington State depth chart states that Jacobson is now the starter, so it can be assumed that both could see the field if one isn't performing up to par. Either way, both will have the responsibility of blocking senior Eathyn Manumaleuna.

"Yeah, we've watched some film on them and we have a good idea of what to expect," said Manumaleuna. "I think they've had some guys move around on their line, but we expect them to be ready regardless."

At the center position will be former walk-on Elliot Bosch (6-4, 272 pounds), who will be given the task of facing senior Romney Fuga.

There was been a battle for the right guard position between Wade Jacobs and Jake Rodgers. Rodgers (6-6, 300 pound redshirt freshman) appears to be the starting right guard with Matt Goetz backing up both guard positions. The fact that one guard is backing up two positions give insight into the lack of depth.

Right tackle Dan Spitz moved from the defensive line as a redshirt sophomore in 2010, and played in 11 games last year. He started in seven games but missed some time because of an injury.

The WSU offensive line might be a little unsettled, but Coach Leach hopes that the offensive line splits – where the linemen are spread out, leaving large gaps in between them – will distance his quarterback from the rush of BYU.

"Yeah, we've watched some Texas Tech film and their o-line splits are very big and they backpedal," Van Noy said. "It's weird and really different, but it's effective for Coach Leach and I'm sure they'll be doing the same thing up there at Washington State."

The splits are designed to do several things.

"I think it creates more throwing lanes to be honest," Van Noy said. "I think with the bigger splits they [create] a quick one, two, three throwing lanes. I also think they try to put more distance between you and the quarterback to give him more time to throw the ball."

When it comes to facing the WSU splits, Van Noy has a few secrets up his sleeve, but he's not divulging what they are.

"Yeah, but I'm going to keep those secrets to myself, you know," Van Noy said with a smile. "So we'll see what happens come game time.

"I never really try and think of their weaknesses, but try and look at their strengths. The inside move and the speed rush can be something that's vulnerable. You know, they're backpedaling and don't know where the quarterback is setting up."

Receivers

Describing the air raid offense is like trying to gather your marbles before they all roll into the gutter. It's all about covering the receivers.

"It's not a whole lot different than what we do here at BYU," Van Noy said. "I would say they're a little more spread and less balanced with the run."

Starting at the x-receiver position will be junior Marquess Wilson, a preseason all-American candidate. He holds several WSU records already, and is on pace to set some more. At 6 feet 4 inches and 185 pounds, Wilson is BYU's version of Cody Hoffman. Senior BYU cornerback Preston Hadley will be given the task of covering Wilson on the boundary side.

"We just have to worry about us and play our own technique," said Hadley. "We just have to worry about us, and we understand that they've got guys that can run and catch the ball, but so do we. We're just going to go out and play our game."

Two players will rotate at the y-receiver position. First is Andrei Lintz, who is a tight end. Lintz comes in at 6 feet 5 inches and 250 pounds, and has very good athleticism. Behind him is a name BYU fans should know. Gino Simone was being looked at by BYU at one time but was never offered a scholarship.

"You just have to be aware of what they're doing and have good eye control as a DB," Hadley said. "You know, you have to have your eyes on your guy, your assignment and your keys so you can recognize what they're going to go. You also have to keep a situation awareness of first-and-10 or third-and-long. That's usually a good indicator of what they'll try and do also."

At the h-receiver position will be a former running back in Rickey Galvin. Coming in at 5 feet 8 inches and 170 pounds, Galvin was switched to the h-receiver position in fall camp. So while Galvin is talented, there is also some inexperience. Galvin is BYU's version of J.D. Falslev.

"There will be a lot of vertical passing routes, mesh routes, dig routes, screens and behind crossing routes," said Brandon Ogletree. "I think Coach Leach does a really good job of mixing it up and making it as unpredictable as possible."

Ogletree and fellow inside linebacker Uona Kaveinga will be busy in coverage when not in the nickel formation.

At the z-receiver position will be true freshman Gabe Marks. Marks beat out redshirt freshman Dominique Williams, as well as redshirt sophomore Kristoff Williams, who got some time in 11 games last year and caught nine passes for 134 yards and two touchdowns. BYU sophomore cornerback Jordan Johnson will be given the task of bottling up Marks.

"We're up for any challenge," said Johnson. "I'm ready to get the show on the road."

"I think they've got a couple of players on the team that can run, they've got some vertical threats," said Hadley. "I respect their team and they've got some athletes and some guys that can play. It will be exciting to see."

"We'll just have to control them as best we can and not let them get over the top of us," said Van Noy.

Washington State will attack BYU's defense multiple ways through the air.

"I know they like the perimeter game and like to throw a lot of smoke screens, bubble screens and things like that," Hadley said. "They also like to throw the ball downfield and take some shots, and so they have a quarterback that can really chuck the ball, but we expect them to spread it out and do different things."

Running backs

WSU's running back situation will be a case of run by committee. The running backs will often flex out as receivers to be a part of the passing game.

"Empty formation isn't that unique to college football," Ogletree said. "We've been doing that here for years now and get a lot of that from our own offense in practice. The main thing is we have to take away the quarterback's passing windows. Our underneath cover guys are going to have to do as good of a job to disrupt those windows. We're counting on our DBs a lot to stick people, get balls out and do what it takes to not let them catch the ball and get first downs."

WSU's offense won't be predicated on the running attack. The backs will be flexed out or will run routes out of the backfield.

The running back corps includes freshman Teondray Caldwell (5-8, 190 pounds).

Carl Winston could see some playing time, having started seven games last year. At 5 feet 8 inches and 192 pounds, Winston is another smaller scat back. He can run and catch the ball out of the backfield.

Leon Books is yet another in the scat back mold and comes in at 5 feet 7 inches and 166 pounds. Brooks is a redshirt sophomore and played in nine games last season. However, he only had three carries for 28 yards.

Are the Cougars of BYU ready to face the air raid offense of Mike Leach? Van Noy seems to think so.

"Of course," he said. "We've been ready since last week. It's now time to hit somebody new."

Hadley echoed Van Noy's sentiment.

"We just have to play our assignment," Hadley said. "We're a man-zone team, so everyone has to stay in their area, have their heads on a swivel, recognize formations and just be ready. You try and force them into some third-and-long situations. When you can do that, you can open up your playbook and really do some fun things. It's all about preparation and I think we're ready."

Time to suit up!


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