Which first-year Cougs might play early?

PULLMAN – For early enrollees the thought process is simple: the sooner you get on the practice field, the sooner you have a chance to play on Saturdays. For others, it's about making an instant impact in fall camp. So who are the first-year freshmen with the best chance to play for the Cougs in 2014?

It's a difficult question to answer – Mike Leach called the 2014 class his best ever at Washington State so the candidates would seem to be many.

But the Cougs may play as few as 2-3 of them in their first year of eligibility because they don't have nearly as many holes as they did since Leach's arrival.

Cornerback is, however, thin. And Marcellus Pippins arrived in January and has a leg up on the other corners arriving this month. From Day 1, two things were obvious about Pippins, he has impressive speed and tremendous leaping ability. He intercepted two passes on his first day and afterwards received high praise from defensive captain Darryl Monroe.

"He's freakishly athletic, has great speed and great ability," Monroe said of Pippins.

But Pippins had his ups and downs during spring like everyone else, at times struggling to keep up with WR Vince Mayle in the pattern though he wasn't alone in that department. And he didn't yet realize in the spring what it takes, (again, like most every other true freshman).

Still, Pippins has a high probability of playing right away mostly because of how thin the Cougars are at corner. Daquawn Brown, Tracy Clark and Charleston White are the only other corners who received significant reps in spring. There's no question Pippins has the skills, it's about how much he can fine tune them by the fall.

There are always surprises in fall camp, once the new arrivals get out there and show what they can do. Brett Bartolone, River Cracraft and Riley Sorenson are among those who weren't seen as the most likely to play… until fall camp got underway. That said, here are three more Cougs we see with a solid chance to play as true freshman.

Calvin Green, wide receiver
The receiving corps is stacked with quality players, but if there's any freshman receiver with a chance of getting his jersey dirty right away, it's one who has 15 spring practices under his belt. And speed will always put you in the conversation. Green is a guy whose speed is noticeable immediately. He had a good, not great spring with few standout moments, though he did show nice hands and concentration on his goal line catches. But it wouldn't shock me in the least if Leach called Green's number on game day. If he manages to string together some impressive fall camp practices, tries to outwork everyone else and spends a decent amount of time in the weight room this summer.

Sulaiman Hameed, cornerback
Hameed wasn't one of the six spring enrollees, but after one look at him on film you see why he's on this list. He was a playmaker at virtually every position with a nose for the end zone. His speed and athleticism are as good as anyone else's in the 2014 class. Even if it takes him awhile to settle in on defense, there's a plenty of opportunity for an open-field threat like him in the return game on special teams. His ability to use his talents on special teams provides him an advantage over others in the class.

Patrick Porter, cornerback
Yes, another corner. It's not an exaggeration; it's a testament to how thin the Cougars are at the position. Look at it this way, Sebastian LaRue made the switch from WR to CB about halfway through spring and it wasn't long before he was seeing a healthy amount of second-team reps. The difference with Porter is I think he'll have a good shot at playing safety rather than corner, (let's not forget safety is a need as well). He's not afraid to put his head down and drive a ball carrier into the ground, a characteristic the Cougars could use more of. Taylor Taliulu is the only relatively sure starter at safety, with Isaac Dotson, Beau Glover, Darius Lemora and David Bucannon all in the mix for the other spot. And once Porter arrives, I can see him definitely being added to that list. And if not, the Cougs remain in significant need at corner.

Don't forget about: Ngalu Tapa, DL; Kingston Fernandez, DE; Dylan Hanser, LB
Tapa might wind up being one of the best gets in the entire class, but the Cougs have a good deal of depth ahead of the 6-3, 275-pounder in 2014 and may have the luxury of redshirting him. But he was all but unblockable despite double- and triple-teams as a prep senior. He's the kind of d-lineman who may force the WSU coaches to play him because of his production, not because of positional need. Fernandez, along with Hercules Mata'afa, are underrated, high-effort guys – Hawaiian recruits don't tend to get the same kind of evaluation and exposure as do those in California. And WSU has an opening for a pass rushing specialist exploding off the edge. Hanser is a guy with slim odds, but he may have elevated those odds in the spring. Linebacker is a deep position on the roster and Hanser had early runs with the 2s at the WILL spot, slightly fading into the crowd after Chester Sua and others began to flourish. It's that sliver of experience that works most in Hanser's favor, and the fact he could have an impact on special teams.

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