WSU's Dockery has warmed to corner

PULLMAN - It wasn't long ago redshirt freshman cornerback Rahmel Dockery was a ghost on the practice field. A prospect who arrived to Pullman with plenty of hype, he struggled to make plays. A position change ensued, which had him feeling down and thinking about hanging up his cleats. But six practices into spring ball, it's clear months of offseason training have made one hell of a difference.

Dockery made his presence known in a big way on Saturday at Martin Stadium. He made two great catches from Cougar QBs during 11-on-11 drills, but there was one big difference.

He was celebrating two interceptions with his defensive counterparts, instead of his teammates on offense.

The 5-10, 170-pound defender made the switch from inside WR to CB in the fall and was a youngster lost on the depth chart behind upper classmen Daniel Simmons, Nolan Washington, Anthony Carpenter, Damante Horton and others. Frustration grew and Dockery, a true freshman, wasn't called upon often.

It was a tough pill to swallow for a kid whose commitment to Washington State was considered by some fans as one of the biggest hauls for former coach Paul Wulff's class of 2011.

"At first it was kind of hard for me because I didn't really have the plays down," Dockery said of the switch to corner. "It took a while for me to get used to everything and it was kind of a struggle. Now that I've learned the system a little better and have some confidence, things are working out there for me. My main focus is getting the playbook down right now."

OUT OF CURTIS HIGH in Tacoma, Dockery was seen as a possible offensive phenom at the next level. As a senior he recorded over 2,600 all purpose yards and was named the all-classifications player of the year by the Tacoma News Tribune. He hauled in 1,400 yards at receiver and was rated three stars and the 88th best WR nationally by Scout.com.

His commitment to the Cougars over Oregon State saw a traffic spike on the CF.C boards and the excitement for his future on offense had the Cougar faithful bubbling with optimism. But he spent the fall of 2011 getting his academic house in order and didn't arrive until January of 2012.

After seeing him on offense during spring ball, Mike Leach had other ideas and moved the speedster to the defensive side of the ball before fall camp. The move made sense for multiple reasons.

First, the Cougars were loaded at inside WR. The depth at CB was also lacking. Dockery was a standout at corner for Curtis and was just as impressive on defense as he was on offense in high school. Cougar fans may remember the highlight tapes featured on youtube of him winning the battle with current UW receiver and former Skyline High talent Kasen Williams.

THE POSITION MOVE, Dockery said, was devastating news at the time.

"I never in my mind had the idea that I would be playing defense," Dockery said. "They made the switch and I was hurt because I came here with the mindset that I'd be able to make a big difference on offense right away.

"It wasn't great to start out. I'm not going to lie to you, I didn't like it at all and there was a point last season where I actually didn't want to play here anymore. I was getting ready to give up."

Dockery said that he was actually close to calling it quits on his Cougar career but thanks to talks with Leach and family back home, he decided to stick it out and see if things would improve.

They have.

"I ended up talking to Coach Leach and my parents about it and they told me just to stick it out and good things would happen. I made the best of the situation and I'm glad I did. I'm feeling a lot better about everything now."

LEACH THIS SPRING has said the focus for Dockery is to continue to accelerate his development – something that will benefit both him and the WSU defense.

The Tacoma product has spent the last two practices seeing increased time running with the first team defense and has been battling with Horton, a senior. Horton holds the advantage in experience, having played in 11 games last season, but corner is a position where the Cougs need better play than they turned in last year.

"I entered the spring with the goal of getting reps with the first-team defense and fortunately that's what's happening right now," Dockery said. "Making plays makes me want to play and work harder. It's gives you that confidence that hard work pays off and I'm hoping that happens for me.

"I really want to get on the field and start making some plays for the team. I'm not just thinking about myself, though. I want to do whatever I can that can help this team be successful in the future."

It appears he's well on his way.

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