How are those Cougar redshirts coming along?

PULLMAN -- Marquess Wilson and John Fullington have made a splash for the Cougars this season, but what about their fellow freshmen who are redshirting this season? CF.C went in-depth with Paul Wulff, offensive coordinator Todd Sturdy and co-defensive coordinator Jody Sears to find out how the youngsters on the scout team are faring. Today we offer Part One in a two-part series.

The Cougars have a trio of redshirting wide receivers in Kristoff Williams, Bobby Ratliff, and Blair Bomber. All three can be "impact guys", said Paul Wulff.

Williams was earmarked to be a major threat for the Cougar offense this season, but a battle with turf toe resulted in his redshirt. Wulff believes all three are fully capable of making lots of noise in 2011.

"All three of those guys should clearly see the field next year if they do the right things in the weight room," Wulff said. "All three of them could be impact players here for the next four years."

After observing first-hand most Cougar practices since August, here's CF.C's snapshot on the three receivers: Ratliff and Bomber have showcased a great deal of talent with the scout team. Williams has been sidelines because of his toe but when he was on the field in fall camp, he showed physicality and solid running ability after the catch -- to go along with secure hands.

Ratliff has been impressive and should see the field plenty of times next year. He has seen plenty of time running with the 2's on offense, and has also seen plenty of time running with the 1's during the team's 7-on-7 skelly drills.

Bomber (5-8, 160) may not be the biggest WR in the Pac-10, but the receiver from Lynden has serious potential. He has easily been QB Connor Halliday's favorite target with the scout team and has been a deep threat throughout. There have been a number of plays where Halliday has been able to find Bomber on deep touchdown passes against the first team defense.

Bomber has also made significant contributions to this year's squad --he is that guy who ticks off the defense. He is relentless, and there have been times the D has really gone after him and unloaded. He simply bounces back up, and proceeds to tick the D off some more. More on this down below…

As for QB Connor Halliday, he has been extremely impressive running the scout team this season. Yes, the Spokane product has thrown plenty of touchdowns against the first team defense, but it goes beyond that.

"Just watching some of the things he's done in practice, I've been extremely impressed," Wulff said. "He's still got a lot to learn, but he's got the makings to help Cougar football -- a lot. Very interested to see how he progresses."

Here's CF.C's snapshot on Halliday: Exciting doesn't quite cover it. Sure, there are times where Halliday might try and force a ball and throw an interception but as CF.C has stated, some of those are to help the defense in weekly game prep. When Halliday isn't going off the card and fires deep, his accuracy has been for the most part dead on. There's no question that Halliday can become a real playmaker. He's going to push Jeff Tuel next season, and that's a good problem to have. The Cougs, if things progress the way they're heading, should have two solid Pac-10 quarterbacks in 2011 – a true junior and a redshirt freshman.

On the offensive line, Shadle Park High product Jake Rodgers is a big bodied lineman who could play a big role in the Cougar offensive line next season. Rodgers has seen the majority of his season at RT with the offense's scout team, and Wulff said the tools are there.

"You know Jake's got a lot of raw ability," Wulff said. "He just needs a year or two more in the weight room before he's going to be a contributor -- but that's why he's redshirting. He definitely has a lot of potential."

Meanwhile TE Aaron Dunn out of Mead High was nearly certain to see the field this season before suffering a broken bone in his wrist in fall camp.

It was hoped the tight end position would see a passing game resurgence in 2010 but that hasn't panned out. But Dunn certainly has the tools to change that.

"Aaron is similar, he needs to see the weight room like Jake Rodgers," Wulff said. "It's very important that he gets a lot stronger -- but the raw tools are clearly there. The intelligence is there -- the want to is there. And Aaron definitely has a chance to be an awfully good tight end for us."

Coming out of high school, Dunn was ranked as the No. 8 TE prospect in the country by and was heavily recruited by Cal and others before signing his LOI with WSU last February.

RB Rickey Galvin broke his wrist on his one and only carry in the season opener and is expected to be granted a medical redshirt. Galvin, based on fall camp, would have undoubtedly made a contribution in the running game this season with his quick feet and elusive capabilities.

As a whole, this freshman class is poised to have a larger than customary impact in 2011.

"To be able to function the way they are functioning, the ones that are playing, in Pac-10 play, is very impressive," Wulff said. "You just don't see that too often. A lot of times people say you have to wait three years before you can grade a class.

Well, all indications right now, are that they've done a lot of really good things."

BONUS READ: O-Coordinator Todd Sturdy talks redshirts

On Bobby Ratliff: "Bobby is going to be a good player, he's getting better every day. We've been keeping him with us (on the 2's and 1's) and reppin' him. He has a bright future. For him, and on all of these guys, they need the weight room."

On Blair Bomber: "Blair is doing great things down on the scout team, he's been scout team player of the week a couple times (as has Halliday). He's a ‘great effort' guy. He's a player that's going to help us. Potentially, he could also (help on returns.)"

On Kristoff Williams: "He looked real good in camp but hurt his toe obviously. But he's going to be really good." Sturdy went on to say while he doesn't expect Williams to return full-go to the field for the season's final weeks, the toe and bone are still sensitive, he does expect him to be 100 percent before spring ball rolls around. "We're just being really cautious given the nature of his injury (turf toe), you can take a major step backwards with that if you're not careful."

On Jake Rodgers: Jake is doing a great job. Jake's got great feet, he is going to be a good player for us here. We're really happy he's here. He's just young, he needs the weight room, all of these guys do.

On Rickey Galvin: "He's working out and doing everything he can but obviously he can't do everything, his arm's out of commission. Put it this way, he's doing everything you can do with one arm. But obviously, he is going to be a really, really good player. He is really special." Sturdy went on to say he's optimistic Galvin will be ready to go by spring ball. "All the indications say yes, but it's kind of a work in progress with that kind of thing, you go through steps."

On Aaron Dunn: "Aaron is everything we thought he was, he just broke the damn wrist early in camp. And again, just like all the other kids who are freshmen, they all need the weight room. He's doing the same as Ricky, he's working as hard as he can every day but he's simply limited in what he can do because of the arm injury." Sturdy said he envisions Dunn being ready for spring ball.

On Bennett Bontemps – "Bennett Bontemps is a walk-on that is doing some really good things. He's playing on special teams, working with the 2's on offense and he has a chance to do some things. He's an effort guy, quick and explosive, and tough – he has a lot of those things you like as a coach." On some of the other walk-ons, such as Gordy Anderson, Austin Ehlo, Zack Johnson, the Sealby brothers, Sturdy said he was pleased but that "it's too early to tell" how they might contribute down the road.

On defensive redshirts on the scout team: "All those kids in the secondary have a chance to really help us. All those guys on the back end. They're all talented, they're all young. And spring ball they can really get back in the mix and show us what they can do."


Such have been the contributions of Bomber and Halliday this season, they even earned praise from Jody Sears, the Cougs' co-defensive coordinator, who went out of his way to note their development.

"The guy I would mention is Blair Bomber. That kid comes to work every single day. He takes a lot of shots on the scout team going over the middle. He gives the defensive guys fits sometimes, and they try to take it out on him. And he pops right back up, he is one tough cookie. He does a really, really good job. I'm really proud of him.

"The other guy I would mention is Halliday. He's done a great job in his role as far as redshirting and being the scout team quarterback. He's going to be good. And he's just done a great job this season in his role. But I'm not going to tell him that!" said Sears.

CF.C Managing Editor Barry Bolton contributed to this report.

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