QB Tyler Bruggman: It's a given that Bruggman will get plenty of spring ball reps now with backup Austin Apodaca departing for playing time opportunities elsewhere. But the spring also figures to provide the first glimpse in 2014 of just how ready the second-year QB is to push senior starter Connor Halliday. Bruggman excelled for the most part in Thursday night practices last year, drawing praise from Mike Leach and the coaching staff. And Halliday left the door ajar with 22 drive-killing interceptions in 2013. Bruggman's decision-making out on the field this spring will be what CougFans should focus in on.
NT Daniel Ekuale: His stock rose considerably in the early bowl practices featuring the youth - his was among the first names mentioned by Leach when asked about the young standouts. Senior Toni Pole is the starter at nose tackle but defensive coordinator Mike Breske told CF.C Ekuale is going to get a lot of reps this spring and WSU also won't be shy about moving guys around on the line. The Cougar d-line was stood up far too often last year and one of the ways the Cougs can go about fixing that is to feature a deeper rotation of quality Pac-12 players. Ekuale showing he's ready to make an impact now would go a long ways towards making that a reality.
S Darius Lemora: Had he not gotten injured in fall camp, Lemora almost certainly would have seen playing time in the defensive backfield last year opposite All-America safety Deone Bucannon. With Bucannon now headed to the NFL, it's critical for the Cougs to get a strong performance from Lemora in 2014. Lemora without question can deliver the crowd-pleasing big hits. But what's more important for him this offseason is to show he can play within the scheme and provide a sure-tackling presence for what will be an inexperienced, young secondary. Breske says he can't wait to get Lemora on the field and see what he can do after delivering some "wow" moments once he got back on the field at the end of last season.
OL Cole Madison: You could also peg fellow o-linemen Carlos Freeman and Cody O'Connell here but Madison offers special intrigue -- WSU flirted briefly in fall camp last year with lining the guy up at receiver. How many o-linemen can you say that about? Madison came in at 6-5, 265 pounds last season and the big question is how much bulk he'll have added by the time the Cougs hit the field this spring -- and how well he carries that weight. What also makes Madison one to watch is that he might be one of those guys who can get it done at either guard or tackle. If someone is treading water or gets injured up front, Madison might be ready to pounce on the opportunity and not let go.
CB Charleston White: No way around it, the WSU defensive backfield is going to need some young corners to be ready to produce in 2014. The good news is corner is a spot where a freshman can make the move from high school to productive starter. The bad news is those guys are hard to find. White will have a leg up on the incoming freshmen with a year in the WSU program under his belt. If he and Daquawn Brown can put together a solid spring, that will go a long ways towards alleviating some of the concerns out on the island. And there's reason to believe White might be ready -- he had a great Midnight Maneuvers performance earlier this month according to Breske and there were times on the scout team last season where he provided smooth coverage and difficult tackles out in space look easy.