Cougars Offensive Preview

IrishEyes reviews the Cougars offensive starters and key contributors for Saturday's matchup in San Antonio.

Skill Position Starters

The Cougars currently rank No. 111 nationally in total offense at 293 yards per game. The passing attack, improved over the last two weeks with the ascension of freshman Jeff Tuel to the starting role, is 55th with 221 yards-per contest. The Cougars running game is again near the bottom of the FBS, as WSU is averaging just 2.23 yards per carry and 72 yards per Saturday (good for 116 out of 120 teams).

WSU averages a shade over 15 points per game and has converted 26 percent of its third-down opportunities. The Cougars have struggled in the red zone, scoring just eight touchdowns (and four field goals) in 17 trips inside their opponents' 20-yard line.

  • (X) Wide Receiver – Junior #12 Jeffrey Solomon : Made his first start on the outside (started Week Three at "F"/slot receiver vs. SMU) last week at California, finishing with 7 receptions for 81 yards. The 6'0" 195-pound Solomon had totaled 12 catches on the season prior to last week's breakout and had been shut-out in two games this season. Collected 6 passes for 71 yards in a Week Two loss to Hawaii and currently ranks fourth on the squad in both receptions and receiving yards. Doubles as the Cougars punt returner but has been held in check, registering just 6.4 yards per return (long 21) in five attempts.
  • (Z) Wide Receiver – Sophomore #84 Jared Karstetter: Lends much-needed size to the Cougars receiving corps and leads the squad with 24 receptions for 337 yards and 3 touchdowns. The 6'4" 205 pound redshirt sophomore has 10 receptions in WSU's last two contests after being limited to one grab vs. USC on September 26.
  • (F) Wide Receiver – Freshman #1 Gino Simone: Shifty true freshman is a product of power Skyline High School Washington. The 5'11" 174-pound slot receiver scored his first collegiate touchdown last week, totaling 6 receptions for 86 yards in the contest. Simone fared well vs. the Trojan's top-tier pass defense, finishing with 8 receptions for 88 yards in the 27-6 defeat at USC.
  • Tight End – Senior #14 Tony Thompson: 6'2" 239-pound three-year contributor has six receptions for 53 yards through seven starts this season.
  • Running Back – Sophomore #34 Logwone Mitz: Earned his first start last week and responded with 51 yards on just 8 carries as the Cougars fell behind early in the 49-17 defeat. At 6'1" 229 pounds, Mitz ranks third on the squad in rushing yards (112) but has been limited to just 2.9 yards per rush serving mainly as the team's short-yardage back. Finished 2008 with 90 carries for 441 yards and three touchdowns.
  • Quarterback – Freshman #10 Jeff Tuel: The 6'3" 207-pound true freshman has started the Cougars last three contests (Oregon, Arizona State, and California) and totaled 519 passing yards in the latter two contests. Tuel threw for a career-high 354 yards and two touchdowns last week. His yardage total was the highest by a freshman at WSU since Drew Bledsoe threw for 385 yards in 1990.

    Tuel has completed 54 of 88 passes for 662 yards with 4 touchdowns and 3 touchdowns in his three starts plus spot early-season action.

Offensive Linemen

  • Left Tackle – Redshirt-Freshman #75 Tyson Pencer: Attempting to fight through an ankle injury, the 6'7" 297-pound first-year player has started three contests this season (USC, Oregon, Arizona State) but gave way to freshman Alex Reitnouer last week at California.
  • Left Guard – Junior #54 Zack Williams: 6'4" 303-pounder has started three games this season (Stanford, Hawaii, and California) after sitting out last season and spending his first two years at Glendale Junior College.
  • Center – Senior #69 Kenny Alfred: The most experienced Cougars protector with 43 career starts, the 6'3" 289-pound senior was named All Pac10 honorable mention last season and named to the Pac-10 Academic honorable mention squad for the third consecutive season. Alfred won the Mike Utley Award as WSU's offensive lineman of the year in 2008.
  • Right Guard – Sophomore #72 B.J. Guerra: Opened the season as the starting right guard before yielding his spot vs. USC in Week Four. The 6'3" 318-pound started five games in 2008 and is listed as the team's first string RG for Saturday's contest, though three-game starter Joe Eppele should also see action.
  • Right Tackle – Junior #76 Micah Hannam: A three-year starter with 32 consecutive starts, the 6'4" 290-pound Hannam was a Sporting News freshman All America selection in 2007.

Key Reserves

  • Left Tackle – Freshman #74 Alex Reitnouer: Undersized at 6'5" 253 pounds, the true freshman has two starts (Oregon and Arizona State) at left guard to his credit this season.
  • Right Tackle – Sophomore #78 Steven Ayers: Listed as the alternate starter at right tackle (along with 32-start veteran Micah Hannam) for Saturday's contest. The 6'4" 311-pound Ayers has started four games (Stanford, Hawaii, and SMU at left tackle and vs. USC at left guard) this season after sitting out last year as a true freshman.
  • Running Back – 5th-Year Senior #31 Dwight Tardy: The 5'11" 204-pound veteran started the first six games of 2009 and eight games last season, finishing with a team-high 133 carries for 481 yards. Tardy again leads the Cougars this season with 186 rushing yards (one touchdown) and could become just the fourth runner in Cougars history to lead his team in rushing three consecutive seasons.
  • Wide Receiver– Junior #2 Daniel Blackledge: 6'0" 175-pounder has started four games at the X-receiver spot this season and ranks third on the squad with 20 receptions for 243 yards.
  • Wide Receiver – Redshirt-Junior #80 Johnny Forzani: Caught four passes for 116 yards last week (the Cougars high-water mark on the year) and has a 99-yard touchdown to his credit (Arizona State) this season. 6'1" 197-pound athlete has averaged 37.9 yards per catch in limited opportunities (7 receptions) this season.
  • Right Guard – Junior #67 Joe Eppele: Has started the last three contests at right guard but the 6'7" 309-pound redshirt-junior is slotted behind Guerra for Saturday's matchup with the Irish. Top Stories