Countdown to Spring: Wide Recievers Preview

PULLMAN — Mike Leach had plenty of success at Texas Tech with smaller receivers. But if there's one thing Leach loves about his wide receivers corps out on the Palouse this spring, it's their size.

Two Leach products now in the NFL, Wes Welker and Danny Amendola, are 5-9 and 5-11, respectively. Meanwhile, the Cougars feature seven wideouts 6-feet tall or better, with Marquess Wilson (6-4), Kristoff Williams (6-2), Bobby Ratliff (6-2) and Dominique Williams (6-2) and Isiah Myers (6-0) among their outside wideouts.

The inside receivers unit includes Gino Simone (6-0) and Bennett Bontemps (6-0), as well as Henry Eaddy (5-8), Blair Bomber (5-8) and Rahmel Dockery (5-8), who arrived on campus in January.

There will be a new coaching dynamic out on the Palouse this season with not one but two WR coaches – Dennis Simmons his in charge of the outside receivers and Eric Morris will mentor the inside corps.

WSU lost seniors Jared Karstetter and Isiah Barton to graduation but Leach is optimistic this spring based on what he's seen on tape and in the winter conditioning sessions.

"I think we've got a pretty good group," Leach said. "They're taller than the guys I've dealt with in the past which I like. They have pretty good speed and are pretty athletic. Not as much experience as maybe we'd like but every team has that."

ONE GUY WHO is experienced is Wilson. The junior-to-be and All-America candidate is coming off a monster season where he hauled in 82 receptions for 1,388 yards and 12 TDs. Those numbers were made even more impressive given that he was as a marked man coming off an explosive true freshman season (Cougar freshman record 55 catches and team leading 1,006 receiving yards.)

"What I like about him is that he always wants the ball," Leach said. "He doesn't care (about) the situation -- just throw it to me. He's explosive once he gets it and he's not afraid of traffic. The biggest thing that we really need to work on is getting precise."

The precision Leach is talking about deals with getting into a rhythm with the quarterback – chemistry – something that's hard to do when injuries necessitate playing three QBs in a season, as was the case last year with WSU.

"Last year they worked through several quarterbacks but we need to get him really in tune with those guys so we're all on the same page," Leach said.

THE COUGS HAVE several wideouts in addition to Wilson expected to put up big numbers under Leach. One who could be ready to make a leap is Ratliff.

He spent his redshirt freshman season as a back-up to Karstetter but still managed 348 yards on 28 receptions with a TD. Ratliff is quick and has some of the most secure hands on the team.

And in many people's minds, the next young breakout star receiver for the Cougs is Dominique Williams. He made remarkable play after remarkable play last season on the scout team matched against the starting cornerbacks. Deceptively fast with a long stride, he does some of his best work in traffic and grabs the ball at its high point.

Kristoff Williams was expected to break out last season – the former staff said Williams was set to play as a true freshman while Wilson would redshirt but injuries scuttled those plans – but it didn't happen. Williams, when healthy, is a physical receiver who can beat defensive backs in a myriad of ways, including whatever press coverage is thrown at him.

Myers could be ready to fill the role of Mr. Dependable. He's the kind of wideout that just makes plays, and he could in 2012 become that go-to-guy on third down who moves the chains.

THE INSIDE RECEIVERS have more questions surrounding the group.

Is Simone ready to return to his early career form when he caught everything within reach?

Is Bomber ready to make an impact in 2012 coming back from knee surgery?

What about Dockery? Will he take off his true freshman season, or will he make his fair share of freshman mistakes?

Morris told CF.C earlier this month that Simone, with his experience, should be able to take advantage of a fresh start with a new offense. Simone is a smart player who prides himself on precision. Headed into spring, it would seem he's a perfect fit in Leach's offense.

Walk-on Bontemps had become a favorite of the old coaching staff. How he figures into the mix under Morris is just one more item of interest to closely watch this spring.

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