What we've learned this spring from Cougs

THERE ARE THINGS you can usually count on when it comes to spring football. The defense will be ahead of the offense when it comes to the early going – the offense takes longer to get their timing down. Of course, you end up throwing out a lot of the bromides when it comes to a Mike Leach team.

After six practices, we asked CF.C correspondent Joe Doyle, who has seen every minute of the spring session, who was winning the majority of the battles – the offense or the defense. It's a push, said Doyle, too close to call.

So does this mean the defense, because they're not ahead, is behind? If this was your average college football team it might, but when it comes to a Leach squad the normal rules often don't apply. This is a guy who took all of three practices to install his offense last year.

This, when you hear new head coaches and offensive coordinators often talk about how they've installed only a percentage of their offense over the course of their first year.

Defensively, there's more attitude, more fire, more confidence than there was a year ago at this time, says Doyle, when the Cougar players and the new staff were together on the field for the first time.

MIK Darryl Monroe is turning in one of the top performances of the spring on that side of the ball, said Doyle. Also among those standing out is d-lineman Xavier Cooper. Both were freshmen a year ago and the confidence they gained from the 2012 campaign has been apparent as the 15-practice spring session approaches the midway point.

THE OFFENSE IS certainly ahead of where they were last year at this time, Doyle said, the timing is better and players are more comfortable in the scheme and in their roles.

That's borne out by watching players like true freshman Robert Lewis. He's had his moments this spring, it's hard not to when you have that kind of speed, but there's also been plenty of times where it's apparent he's still learning and getting in synch. You're not seeing that with other players the way you're seeing it with Lewis, because they've had a full year now under Leach.

In the receiving game, Gabe Marks and Rickey Galvin are off to fast starts. Marks has put on some muscle this offseason and Galvin, now healthy again, is a challenge when he gets into open space.

ON THE OFFENSIVE LINE, there's lots more competition going on. The Cougs are rotating in about 12 guys in on the first team, said Doyle. Some of that can be attributed to the coaches just wanting to take a look at a guy or a certain group on any particular day. Spring is the time to do some of that.

But it's also a deeper, more developed group for the Cougs. John Fullington and Joe Dahl have both gotten considerable turns this spring at the No. 1 left guard spot. Dahl has put on a considerable amount of good weight this offseason and is establishing himself as one to watch.

Matt Goetz is getting most of the reps at right guard, but he's being pushed by Zach Brevick and Pierson Villarrubia. Brevick brings experience to the table while Villarrubia, a redshirt freshman, is quick on his feet. Villarrubia has also packed on 15 pounds and looks more the part of a Pac-12 lineman this spring.

And could it be that Dahl ends up here, with Fullington at the other guard spot, or vice-versa? These are the kinds of questions that surface in the early spring.

Meanwhile, Jake Rodgers started all 12 games last season but it looks like he's going to have some serious work to do to try and reclaim his spot. Granted, he's been held out of contact drills this spring (perhaps because of a shoulder injury, WSU does not release any injury information) but he was going to have a battle on his hands regardless – the level of play and depth up front has increased.

You can see it in o-line coach Clay McGuire, says Doyle – McGuire is much more upbeat in practice. He has many more Pac-12 level candidates this spring than he did last year. Now we just have to wait and see if the defense or offense wins the battle over the next nine practice sessions. Then again, this is a Leach team. It just might end up being too close to call.

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