Cougar spring game highs

IS IT POSSIBLE for both the defensive and offensive lines to look good when going against one another in a spring game? In the case of the Cougars, the answer was yes. Meanwhile, don't sleep on Washington State linebacker Jeremiah Allison... or Peyton Pelluer. And how does the phrase "Ground Sortie" sound?

The Cougar d-line got a decent amount of push and they're deeper than last year – Robert Barber for example did a nice job with four tackles and Ivan McLennan looks ready to get after the QB after a year in the WSU system. Meanwhile, the starting front three of Xavier Cooper, Toni Pole and Destiny Vaeao all lent hope to the notion the Cougs will be better up front compared to 2013. Joe Salave'a talked to CF.C earlier this spring about how this is the first year he's had quality depth he would feel comfortable rotating. CougFans got a good glimpse of the quality and improvement in the spring game.

The offensive line(s) gave up seven "sacks" but two things are important to note: WSU attempted 107 passes in the spring game. And the starters and key contributors were split among the two teams. Nowhere on a football field is it more apparent the continuity that comes when a starting front five are playing together. Also, the majority of the sacks came against backup QBs who struggled to get through their reads as deftly as did Connor Halliday. And there were some nice holes opened up in the run game. They're filling some holes with some young guys, but WSU looks more capable than they have in quite some time to do just that on the o-line.

Ryan Witter smartly pointed out the gains made by backup MIK Jeremiah Allison and I would echo those. I'd also shine some light on Peyton Pelluer. Sometimes spring game stats lie and a guy who won't play much puts up an impressive number. But Pelluer's eight tackles carried heft, particularly because of how he moved to the ball. If both continue to develop on into fall camp, one possibility is that a) Allison will spell Darryl Monroe and that will make the Cougs' (arguably) best defensive player better, fresher and less susceptible to injury and b) Pelluer might find his niche as a guy who can spell at the WIL without much of a drop-off.

Two WR starters were out – that usually means not just a drop-off but a big one for most teams. Instead, WSU simply reloaded with Drew Loftus, added a dose of Robert Lewis and then cranked up Calvin Green. Meanwhile, Vince Mayle and River Cracraft looked ready to play in a game tomorrow. Loftus is a walk on, and so is John Thompson, who also looked capable out there. Some caution should be taken with expectations on Green - he's a true freshman, he excelled in the second half after the 1s and 2s had mostly called it a day plus with the WR talent in ‘14, it might be nice to have him for five years rather than four. But speed is speed, and he could earn his way into the mix. At the end of the day, even with Brett Bartolone sporting a huge contraption (it looked like a super turbo-charged sling) on his shoulder, the Cougs look stacked very deep and plenty capable out wide.

Air Raid? Sure. But how about a large helping of Ground Sortie too? Mike Leach isn't going to change –screens and short passes to his running backs are part and parcel of his "run game." But WSU is as deep at running back as they've been in recent memory -- Theron West and Jamal Morrow actually all but rendered it an afterthought that Marcus Mason, the Cougs' leading running back last season, didn't even play (Jim Mastro said he's dinged up.) The big takeaway was that West and Morrow, and to a lesser extent Gerard Wicks and Teondray Caldwell, all exploited good-sized, interior holes created by the o-line. No hesitation by the running backs -- no dancing, no trying to turn every run into a TD and thereby leaving yards on the table. Just hit it and go, and good things happen. The question now is how much more might the Cougs run, now that they have quality, different running back-types at their disposal. It won't be a sea change. But might it still be a substantial one? Only Leach knows.

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