Coug WRs coach Simmons has big expectations

SIMPLY PUT, the bar is set pretty high. That is what WSU outside receivers coach Dennis Simmons told CF.C during Seattle's A Night With Cougar Football earlier this month. Simmons, who in 2014 will enter his 13th season under Mike Leach, said the spring competition is going to be fierce with the core of his outside receivers returning: Isiah Myers, Vince Mayle, Dom Williams and Gabe Marks.

"I'm fortunate; I've got all four of them coming back," he said. "The bar is set pretty high. This spring, you've got to compete.

"This year I want to see who's going to step up, take over and be that guy – be the bona fide starter at each one of those positions."

As for who's going to do that, Simmons isn't quite sure.

"That's the beauty of spring ball," he said. "You give these guys an opportunity to break out."

Asked how the outside receivers separate themselves, Simmons said the group as a whole has a good foundation and understands what their assignments are in the offense.

"Now it's just being consistent about it – perfecting their techniques -- My shoulders are supposed to be low at this point. Keep my shoulders low. If I'm supposed to getting this yardage on my depth, making sure I get my depth. Being a consistent guy so the quarterback doesn't have to look for you in his progression. He knows where you are going to be at and hit that spot."

SIMMONS SAID THE GROUP benefits from a returning quarterback in Connor Halliday, who led the Cougars to their first bowl game in a decade.

"It's a comfort zone for all of them," he said. "It was nice to get to a bowl and get those guys an extra 13 days of practice. It has carried over throughout (Midnight) Maneuvers and the rest of the offseason.

"They're starting to understand not only the game but being a good football player. They're going out and doing extra things on their own."

In terms of individual progress, Simmons singled out Mayle, who he calls a "young player, but a talented player," that has spent endless hours in the film room during the offseason.

"I think he's constantly growing at playing wide receiver," he said. "I expect a lot of great things from him this spring. I'm kind of excited to see where he is. I know he's gotten his body in the position – in the shape – where he wants it."

The 6-3 Mayle was 230 pounds last season. On the spring roster released yesterday, he's listed at a svelte 219 pounds.

Marks, who will be available for spring practices after an offseason arrest, also comes with some high expectations.

"Gabe's a talented receiver," he said. "He understands how to understand and run a route. He's got to be one of those guys I talked about earlier that has to be more consistent. If you're supposed to go right, you've got to go right.

"Just doing the little things, down-in and down-out to make sure you're that dominant player."

As for Marks' scuffle with the law, Simmons said that certain things stay within "the family," but added that Marks "understands that certain types of behavior won't be accepted or tolerated."

Simmons said he also is interested to see what incoming freshman Calvin Green, an early January enrollee, will do, as well as redshirt freshman-to-be Robert Lewis and John Thompson, the latter a walk on who had a brief stint with the 1s during fall camp.

Simmons also mentioned an inside receiver who is also returning -- Brett Bartolone, whom Simmons said is "back at 100 percent."

WHILE SIMMONS WAS PLEASED with last year's progress when it came to picking up yards after a catch, as well as being physical and blocking in the run game, he said there is plenty of room to grow. Among his areas of emphasis are protecting the football and being more consistent on routes.

"I thought there was several balls that were in the air – they might not have been perfect balls – but I thought we could've found a way to come down with them," he said in regard to last season. "Not every ball is going to be a perfect ball.

"We've got to find a way to win."

But Simmons acknowledged learning to do that isn't simple.

"You've got to put everything into perspective," he said. "The kids who went to a bowl game on our team last year had never gone to a bowl game, so everything we did was a first. The kids that were on our team last year had never won six games before.

"That's not something we're satisfied with and I'm not trying to use it as an excuse, but it's a process."

Simmons is regarded as an excellent recruiter and is Leach's point man in Los Angeles, but he said it isn't hard to sell the Cougars' offense to a prospective receiver.

"It's simple," he said. "You want to catch the ball, the proof is there. You can pull up any stat from any site and you want the opportunity to catch the football multiple times a game, come to Washington State. That's not propaganda or a recruiting ploy, that's just facts.

"Once kids get to Pullman, we break down all of the stereotypes, at least from the Southern California standpoint. It's a small town, but it's a small town equipped with everything you need to be a college student-athlete."

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