A leaner Simone gears up for last shot

WITH TIME RUNNING short, one of the state's most coveted college prospects and receivers from the 2009 recruiting crop is looking for one final chance to make his mark at Washington State.

Gino Simone had bulked up in recent years, putting more muscle on his frame in an effort to withstand the Pac-12 pounding. This spring, a leaner Simone has emerged. The senior is listed at his 2011 measurables of 6-0, 194 pounds but it looks like he's dropped about 10 pounds.

"I feel really good," Simone said. "I feel lighter and faster than I have in a long time and it's really benefitted my play -- but (it's) not just me. There's a lot of guys who are moving faster getting in and out of breaks and that will just give us a better product on Saturdays."

Simone over his career hasn't achieved the numbers he or Cougar Nation expected him to produce. After an impressive freshman season with 330 yards on 36 receptions, his numbers have gone down each year. An injury plagued 2010 season produced 132 yards on 13 receptions. Last year, Simone's production plummeted further. He recorded but 69 yards on only four receptions.

But under the new coaching staff, the off-season drills and workouts have changed things. The Midnight Maneuvers set the tone endurance-wise, Simone said.

"Coach Jason Loscalzo (strength coach) came in here and he had a great plan to get guys running a lot more," Simone said. "It's way more than we ever have here and that was huge for me. I changed my diet as well trying to eat healthier and I feel like I've noticed some good changes out of that."

THIS SPRING, Simone has seen most of his reps running with the 2s, but has also seen a good amount of action running with the first team as well. On Tuesday, he hauled in at least four catches including an incredible diving grab in traffic midway through the session.

"He's done some good stuff for us," Mike Leach said. "I think he's improving and I look forward to seeing where spring takes him, really."

For Simone, the difference between practices last season and this year have been pronounced. With Leach's Air Raid offense, drills are performed at a much faster clip, and receivers are given plenty of opportunities to make plays and showcase their abilities.

"It's a receiver's dream," Simone said. "Coach Leach has obviously done some good things in the past but it really means nothing now. We have to bring our own style to it and I think we'll be able to do that."

Simone, a senior, has one more opportunity. Will Simone bounce back and be a difference maker for the Cougs in 2012?

"Hopefully that's the case," Simone said. "Above anything, I just want to win games now. I've got one year left here and I came to this school with the intention of being a part of something that's going to rebuild the program and have it better than when I got here.

"I think me and the guys that I came in here with have had that effect and we have gotten better each year. I think people have noticed that and hopefully this is the year we can take off."

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