COUNTDOWN TO 2013: Cougars WR Preview

PULLMAN – One word best describes the wide receiver position at WSU headed into fall camp – stacked. Cougar fans and pass-catchers alike should expect gaudy numbers from the crimson wideouts in 2013, as a number of candidates appear primed for explosive campaigns. Could Washington State see two -- maybe even three -- 1,000 yard receivers this season?

The Cougs and Mike Leach have a ton of promising targets to pick from in the passing game this season, thanks to a young crop of receivers, all vying for playing time in 2013.

The Cougs ranked 16th in the country last season in receiving yards. But if you remove deep-ball threat Marquess Wilson, they had no one break the 600 yard receiving mark. Indeed, Cougar quarterbacks made it a point of emphasis to spread the ball around last season, something common in Leach's Air Raid.

But one can expect those yardage totals to change this season.

THERE ARE AT least three or four legitimate honors candidates at the wideout position this year, and Cougar quarterbacks could have a field day huckin' the pigskin around the turf in 2013.

One of the more heralded receivers coaches will be looking for production from will be redshirt sophomore Dominique Williams, the expected starter at the X-position. Williams (6-2, 180) possesses supreme ball skills, runs clean routes and always seems to meet the ball at its highest point.

While Williams doesn't possess top-end speed, his size and lanky figure make him a matchup nightmare.

Across from Williams at the Z position, the starter is less entrenched. Incoming JUCO transfer Vince Mayle (6-3, 220) has exceptional size and speed and is sure to be a redzone nightmare for opposing defenses this season. If he's as advertised, he may staple down that spot in fall camp.

Sophomore Gabe Marks (5-11, 175) remains the wildcard on the outside. Arguably the most naturally gifted and explosive wideout on the team, Marks will need to find his true position this fall. The Los Angeles native bounced around as an outside and inside receiver last year, but truly excelled when given the opportunity to beat his defender on the outside.

He doesn't have the size of Mayle or Williams, and Marks may end up being a hybrid of sorts in 2013, lining up at the H and Z positions -- but rest assured, he'll most certainly get his reps in 2013.

At the Y spot, there doesn't appear to be any squabble as to who will be starting. Sophomore Brett Bartolone (5-10, 179) is coming off an impressive freshman campaign and turned in a solid spring.

Bartolone's outstanding hands and lateral burst make him an almost impossible assignment for linebackers over the middle, and it showed in 2012. If the team needed five yards, Bartolone on a six yard out-route was the call. Having led the team with 53 receptions last season, his sticky hands should see more receptions this season.

Another wideout who could make waves this year may well be redshirt junior Kristoff Williams. The Antioch, Calif., native has yet to explode out on the Palouse but he caught fire toward the latter half of 2012, hauling in a touchdown in four of the team's final five contests. And Williams owned the spring game, (7 rec., 136 yards, 1 TD.)

Williams possesses the big body needed to play the H-receiver spot in the Air Raid offense, and should get first crack at nabbing the position this fall. If Williams can continue to work hard and use his body as an advantage against defenders, the two things he hasn't done enough of to solidify his standing in previous years, there's no reason to think he won't take flight in 2013.

If Williams doesn't rise up, the starter will more than likely be redshirt junior Rickey Galvin (5-8, 171). Like Bartolone, Galvin's lateral burst and elusive size will give defenders fits. His career at WSU has been plagued by injury, and it will be interesting to see if he can reach his full potential this season. He gave evidence he might be ready to do that this spring.

Now, consider that in 2007, Leach's Texas Tech offense saw Michael Crabtree and Danny Amendola combine for over 3,100 receiving yards. A third receiver, former WSU inside receivers coach Eric Morris, had almost 800 receiving yards to his name. That trio combined for almost 4,000 yards in one season.

Given the six Cougar wideouts listed above, it isn't at all difficult to project two or even three Cougar receivers in '13 crossing the 1,000 yard mark.

OUTSIDE OF THOSE six, there are two other strong candidates who could leave their mark in 2013.

Junior Isiah Myers and third-year sophomore Bobby Ratliff both showed signs of promise in 2012. But they also saw their production tail off as the season went on.

Still, Myers in particular should see plenty of opportunities to flourish in 2013 at the X position. He will need to work on his consistency and ramp up his effort during practice given the competitive volume in the fold.

Likewise, Ratliff will need to see his production and wherewithal in practice take a step forward if he expects to become a consistent producer in the two-deeps throughout the fall.

BEYOND THOSE EIGHT, several others will be looking to see the field this season, all of which you can make an argument for in some way.

Freshmen River Cracraft and Robert Lewis will all look to showcase their talents on Rogers Field and find their niche in the 2013 Cougar offense. Cracraft, listed at 6-2, 205 his senior season, worked hard before arriving at WSU in June to get physically ready to play in the Pac-12. Lewis has loads of speed, and spent his spring with the Cougs trying to assimilate the offense and get used to the jump in competition.

A group of walk ons will also try to find their niche in fall camp -- third-year sophomore Tyler Baker and second-year freshmen Kyle Adkins, Adam West and Conner Johnson.

THE COUGS HAVE a giant crop of talent at wideout headed into fall camp and only so many spots to fill. But if Leach, outside WRs coach Dennis Simmons and inside receivers coach Dave Yost want to in turn go to a heavy rotation and bombard opponents with fresh legs and talent, they can.

Competition should be ultra-fierce at wide receiver when fall camp begins -- and it shouldn't stop until the end of the season.

Cougfan Top Stories