Five questions as Cougs approach fall camp

PULLMAN -- The 2013 Cougs have a deep receiving corps, a promising defense and more overall speed and strength across the board than last year. But question marks remain as WSU readies to open their fall camp on Friday in Lewiston. And for true success to be achieved in '13, these five questions must be answered.

1) Who is going to steer the ship on Mike Leach's pirate vessel?

Strong quarterback play is a must and especially in the Air Raid offense. Fourth-year junior Connor Halliday impressed coaches with his leadership and poise this offseason. But will his aggressive nature besiege him and cost him the starting quarterback job? Will second-year freshman Austin Apodaca's athleticism be too much to keep off the field in 2013? Odds are Halliday will win the job coming out of fall camp, but it's a storyline to watch throughout 2013.

2) What is the offensive line going to look like when the dust settles?

The Cougs have 10-12 solid bodies that could make up the starting five – something not seen on the Palouse in some time. But they're not quite there yet physically, as Leach likes his guys both athletic and 320-pounds or so. And although they're healthy and with more size and talent, the big question is how big a step forward can this unit take in 2013? And what will the starting five look like after the dog days of August?

3) Who on earth is going to step up and lay claim to the cornerback position?

Last season, the Cougar performance against the pass was paltry at best. The cornerback position must make a leaps-and-bounds move forward in 2013, and it starts with the upperclassmen. Will seniors Anthony Carpenter, Nolan Washington and Damante Horton lock down the position with their experience, or will the rising youth steal the show? Freshmen Rahmel Dockery, Alex Jackson, Daquawn Brown and Charleston White are all waiting in the wings to earn their keep. Are they ready now?

4) Who is going to be the Cougs starting free safety against Auburn?

On the back end, four, maybe five candidates could compete for the starting free safety position. Senior Casey Locker may have the presumptive nose-up due to his senior experience but sophomore Taylor Taliulu had some good run last season and from the chair, he's right on Locker's heels. Alongside those two, sophomore and WSU rookie Paris Taylor, second-year freshman David Bucannon and hard-hitting rookie Darius Lemora should all get extensive looks this fall. Lemora, in our book, is the guy to keep an eye on.

5) Where will third-year sophomore Tana Pritchard end up?

Pritchard was one of the most impressive players for the Cougs this spring, and should continue his push up the depth chart this fall. The problem for Pritchard, there is a logjam at the top. He's received a lot of work at the SAM and WILL linebacker positions, both currently occupied by junior Cyrus Coen and senior Justin Sagote respectively. The question may end up being, who will slip up first and open up the opportunity for Pritchard to seize? Or will it be a whole lot of rotation there, with Pritchard taking on the role of super-sub?

Some other key things to watch for…

  • WSU ranked high in both sacks and tackles for loss last season, but there were still far too many times when the opposing QB had a comfortable pocket. How WSU goes about trying to increase the pressure more in '13 should be highly intriguing.

  • Where does Logan Mayes fit into that mix? Will he flourish in the planned move to defensive end? Could he be the catalyst for WSU more consistently dialing up the pressure?

  • The anticipation is building to see if Vince Mayle (6-3, 240) is the real deal. His combination of speed and size is rare indeed, but will there be an adjustment period to the Pac-12? Or will Mayle form the jump be too much for opposing defensive backs? And will another receiver nobody seems to be talking about much -- Rickey Galvin -- be a difference maker in the way he was expected to be last season before getting injured?

  • Can Kache Palacio and Ivan McLennan, with Mayes at d-end, effectively man that BUCK spot and decrease the impact of losing Travis Long to graduation?

  • Will Leach run more and if so, will that decrease the number of times last year the WSU offense stalled? Will it be Teondray Caldwell, Gerard Wicks or someone else to help the Cougs punch it into the end zone more?

  • There are always some corner-turners in fall camp, where the discussion turns from potential to getting it done in a big way. One of the guys we think is going to rise up and turn heads in fall camp? DL Destiny Vaeao.

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