SPRING COUNTDOWN: Cougars WR Preview Part II

PULLMAN – It will be seemingly endless, the list of wide receiver names on the WSU roster in 2013. Unofficially there are 19 – count ‘em, 19 -- wide receivers expected to be on board by the time the games count for real. That means competition, and a whole lot of it, when the Cougs kick off spring drills on Thursday.

We already covered eight of the wideouts in this piece in case you missed it. But what about the rest of the corps? Washington State has a flock of candidates vying for playing time this season -- who might push the two-deeps for playing time?

Senior walk on Bennett Bontemps might be at the top of that list. He has an incredible work ethic and does all the little things very well, even getting a look at running back last season. A ‘bulldog' mentality, Bontemps will face stiff competition this spring. Bontemps appears poised to be a significant special teams contributor, though his contributions in the offense appear to be in question.

Still, it's worth keeping in mind that at the end of last spring, Mike Leach's first in Pullman, it was a major surprise when Bontemps was listed atop the depth chart at the "H".

Junior Henry Eaddy possesses bewildering speed, but he too has durability issues that have held him back. Eaddy, a late arrival in last season's fall camp, caught zero balls last season, sidelined with an injury for much of the season. Eaddy saw limited time in practice, instead being relegated to the conditioning staff for much of the season.


HENRY EADDY

If healthy, Eaddy may get some looks at the slot, especially as a pass-catcher coming out of the backfield.

Four other walk-ons will join the battle this spring. Redshirt junior Daniel McDonald, his brother, redshirt sophomore Brett McDonald, and fellow redshirt sophomores Mark Urtz and Tyler Baker will all get looks at different wideout positions this spring.

One thing to note -- the McDonald brothers were used extensively last season on special teams.

Fall Shake-Up It's impossible to talk about spring ball and not mention the fall arrivals because there could be a big shake up here, as new faces come in and inject even more talent into an already deep corps.

KEEP IN MIND....
Leach makes his money through the air. Regardless of how dynamic his running backs or how stout his defenses may be in some years, the head man's colorful passing numbers has always drawn the lion's share of publicity. And history suggests, Washington State and Leach were built for each other.

Prolific air attacks have been a staple on the Palouse for years, consistently placing the Cougs in the top 25 nationally. Even in down years, like last season when the Cougs were 3-9, or in 2010 when the previous staff went 4-8, they still ranked No. 9 nationally through the air in both those seasons.

Pass-catchers of great talent will always want to come play in such a fruitful scheme.

First and foremost, junior Vince Mayle (6-3, 225) will presumably be given the chance to either win one of the split-end spots right out of the gate or at least earn significant turns. Mayle has received sterling reviews, touted as ‘bigger and more athletic' than Michael Crabtree. On top of that, he was ranked as one of the top five JUCO wideouts in this year's recruiting class.

Mayle possess big, strong hands, as well as good route running ability. His value could be even greater when you consider how many times WSU moved the ball well only to stall in enemy territory. The Rocklin, Calif. native is the prototypical redzone target, and should fit beautifully into Leach's spread scheme.

Beyond Mayle, two freshmen could compete for time right off the bat. Charleston White and River Cracraft both bring unique abilities to Pullman and, if we know anything about Leach, should get their opportunities.

White (6-0, 160) will certainly get a look at wideout, though defensive back also remains a possibility. A special athlete, White possesses good speed and exceptional leaping ability. It remains to be seen what the coaching staff has in store for this ultra-competitor but it looks like his first look will be on offense.

Cracraft (6-1, 193) is one of the more well-rounded wideouts in the country, and has the skills to make an early impression. Cracraft doesn't possess incredible speed, but his hands, route running abilities, and pure competitive nature may get him some time in 2013. Then again, the coaching staff may elect to redshirt at least one wide receiver this season.

Walk-on wideouts Adam West and John Thompson III will also arrive to an already crowded position.


GABE MARKS

Prediction
With 19 wideouts on roster, there aren't even turns for all of them. A move to safety or corner might be in the cards for some, a special teams emphasis for others. But with that number at the jump, the 15 spring session practices should feature a heightened competition level not seen at the wideout spot in years.

Indeed, the battle for the ‘first eight' spots will be incredibly competitive. It's conceivable the most talented receiver depth at Washington State ever could be on hand at spring's end let alone fall camp, even rivaling the Fab Five from '97. Who could have ever guessed that could be the case even with the departure of Marquess Wilson?

With 19 guys at wideout, it's almost impossible, downright irresponsible at this stage to make a bullish prediction, right?

Sue me.

Before spring ball even begins, before fall camp even gets underway, my pick for the starting four are Dominique Williams, Mayle, Gabe Marks and Brett Bartolone… followed by Isiah Myers, Kristoff Williams, Rickey Galvin and… surprise… Cracraft.

(Note: Spring ball is less than one week away for the Cougs, with all signs pointing to a wild competition at wide receiver. CF.C's Joe Doyle will be there to bring you all of the news from the gridiron.)

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