Cougs: 5 things we've learned this spring

PULLMAN – The fights and explosive plays on both offense and defense have made for good headlines this spring out at Washington State but in looking closer, we've learned a good deal beyond that when it comes to the bigger picture.

Aside from the play at cornerback and that of Connor Halliday – here are five things we've learned so far this spring:

1. Vince Mayle is a lean, mean, pass catching machine
The 6-foot-4, 220-pound receiver has shone brightest among the slew of WSU pass catchers. Each day Mayle finds himself of the receiving end of a touchdown pass (if not multiple TD grabs) and he owns the most explosive play of the spring thus far, an 80-yard TD bomb from Tyler Bruggman on Day 3.

Mayle and Halliday have forged a bond this offseason and it's been apparent on the field. Mayle, despite trimming down this offseason, looks bigger, stronger and faster than just about every other wideout to this point, though it's important to note fellow outside receivers Dom Williams and Gabe Marks have been limited. But Mayle has emerged as the go-to guy at wide receiver through eight days of spring, and Williams, Marks and others are going to need to bring their A-game when they return.

2. Theron West is top dog at running back
The fifth-year senior has continued his upward momentum from the bowl game into the spring season. Indeed, he's catapulted himself into the starting spot out of the backfield. West has primarily received snaps with the 1s and Leach says of all the running backs, West is clearly the front runner thus far.

His speed has, to this point, been unmatched by any of the other backs and it was Saturday's practice when he used that quickness to fly past WIL linebacker Tana Pritchard for a touchdown.

West currently sits ahead of Marcus Mason, Teondray Caldwell, Jamal Morrow and Gerard Wicks who have all had their fair share of opportunities at the position but so far when there are up-downs on the line in the team period, it's West who stands beside Halliday.

3. Special teams coach Eric Russell wants young legs in the return game
On both kickoff and punt returns Russell has been going with an all-freshmen lineup of CB Sebastian LaRue, CB Marcellus Pippins and WR Robert Lewis. This may be a decision to give a breather to veterans like WR Rickey Galvin and West who clearly have the makings of quality return men but have heavy enough load on offense.

The front runner has yet to emerge but these three have emerged as the 'spring finalists' after we saw the likes of WR River Cracraft, CBs Daquawn Brown and Charleston White along with Morrow receive returner reps earlier on.

Speed and elusiveness are obviously common attributes among the return group but from this chair, Lewis earns the nod as the quickest out of group solely based on the eye-test.

4. Spring is the time for experimentation, until it's not.
At the three traditional linebacker spots, WIL Tana Pritchard, MIK Darryl Monroe and SAM Cyrus Coen have been pretty well entrenched with the 1s. Of that group, Monroe and Pritchard have stood out most in terms of high-profile plays, (Coen's not doing poorly by any means, he's just been more quietly efficient.)

Of the rest of the group, Jeremiah Allison has most caught my eye. No, I don't think he's going to take the job from Monroe but Ken Wilson talked pre-spring about his desire to sub in for Monroe and Allison, from this chair, is starting to look like he can do that without there being a large drop-off. Chester Sua is playing ok but I think, understandably, he's going to need more time to shake a year's worth of rust off. Mitchell Petersen split some time at the SAM before the pads came on but since then it's been all Coen.

Paris Taylor and Dylan Hanser were part of the second group on the first couple of days, they got some looks the first couple days, but those listed above have comprised the second team since.

5. Depth and rotation on the d-line now a 2014 possibility on the d-line?
I say "possibility" because it's a fine line between having your best guys -- T Xavier Cooper, NT Toni Pole, E Destiny Vaeao -- out there vs. bringing in the guys behind them. And this spring, that No. 1 line has been pretty well set in stone.

But Robert Barber has been showing some good stuff clogging up the middle and against the run game. Daniel Ekuale has shown a very good first step at times. Gerald Sterling has shown some flashes when he stays low enough.

It's a long ways from here to there but rotation will only help the starters and WSU at least has the possibility of fielding some quality rotational depth if the reserves continue to improve through fall camp.

CF.C talked about the punting game yesterday but hereare some additional thoughts: On Day 5, Eric Russell was pretty clear when expressing his disappointment in his unit. It wasn't until Day 7 that I saw any of the punters consistently boot the ball farther than 40 yards down field. If Wes Concepcion and recently added punter Connor Davis can't deliver the 4.2 second hang time Russell wants, the position is going to remain a big question mark this offseason and into fall camp. (CLICK HERE for a youtube clip of Davis.)

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