Taking new stock of WSU position battles

THERE WERE SEVERAL key position battles Cougfan.com identified as the most intriguing headed into fall ball – with the opener less than two weeks away, how have they played out? One of the most intriguing has been at running back, and it sure hasn't unfolded like many thought it might.

Running Back
Theron West and Jamal Morrow entered camp as the frontrunners and have continued to solidify their standing.

Both are good out in space and West, although he isn’t a big guy at 5-7, 173-pounds, does a really excellent job at the last of lowering his shoulder and maximizing the available yards. Morrow is 5-8, 187-pounds and both plays bigger and is slippery - he's tough to take down. If he continues to work at it, Morrow could become a star in the Air Raid. Both have good hands.

Teondray Caldwell has been moved to safety as of Sunday, providing a whole lot of new intrigue. Caldwell could also still be a factor in the return game.

Marcus Mason has arguably been the biggest surprise, in that the ’13 all-purpose yardage leader and second-leading receiver hasn’t been able to launch a challenge to West and Morrow.

WSU doesn’t provide injury information but from our chair, Mason just hasn’t had the same burst he had last year – and that has meant he isn’t moving straight ahead quickly enough and hasn’t had been able to make enough yards once he gains the edge.

*Gerard Wicks (pictured above) is the guy CougFans may want to zero in on here in the 10 days before the opener. He has been getting more reps and whether running or receiving, he’s the most explosive coming out of the backfield.

Our man on the ground, Christopher Shaw, tells me, “Wicks has been looking really, really good.” He’s not to the point he’s about to take the job of Morrow or West, but it might be Mike Leach rethinks his standard plan of having two guys get the most of the reps, and instead makes it a 2 guys-plus.

This one looks to have been mostly decided between Riley Sorenson and Sam Flor, but with a caveat.

Sorenson has been the man in the middle but the one thing that could change that: snapping issues. Sorenson had a bad day when the Cougs were in the IPF and the coaches let him know about it. He and Halliday still have some work to do there to make is seamless, Shaw thinks, but unless he falters significantly, this battle looks to have gone Sorenson’s way.

Wide Receiver
The two top battles here are at the Z and H. At the Z, Kristoff Williams has been the most consistently explosive. Isiah Myers has cooled off a bit after his fantastic stretch earlier, but he’s certainly going to see plenty of looks and can take off at any moment. So what about the guy who looked to have this spot locked up when camp began?

Gabe Marks has been limited so he hasn’t rejoined the battle. But even before Marks began ‘doing exactly what we want him to be doing’ as Leach might say, Williams and Myers were playing at a higher level from what we observed. It should be really interesting once Marks is no longer limited and really, it will just be something intriguing to watch all season long.

At the H, this one isn’t settled between Rickey Galvin and Calvin Green. They’re virtually interchangeable and it’s still about dead even. Unless something changes, it wouldn’t be a stunner to see the guy named the starter get about 50 percent of the snaps.

At the X, Vince Mayle is the guy but Dom Williams is a long catch waiting to happen and figures to get lots of looks too. At the Y, River Cracraft has a firm handle on the job but Robert Lewis figures to get his chances to surprise some defenses. Brett Bartolone has been limited much of fall camp.

Daquawn Brown has been the top guy here. And Tracy Clark has been the most consistent in the battle for starting at the other corner spot.

Brown is more of a playmaker and more of a guy you notice, while Clark is a guy who contains.

Charleston White has been the best of the backups in a group that includes Marcellus Pippins but White has not yet done enough to challenge Clark for the starting gig, though he’s still getting looks here. Patrick Porter has been the best of the true freshmen and continues to see a decent amount of reps with the 1s and 2s. It’s not out of the realm for Porter or White to suddenly “get it” with the requisite consistency then following. But until then, Clark continues to turn back all comers.

Taylor Taliulu has one safety job wrapped up. Isaac Dotson is now back, so it will be worth watching to see if he reclaims the other job or if Darius Lemora will be the guy.

Lemora has looked good in Dotson’s absence, Shaw says. He’s a big hitter and, thus far, has also been a sure tackler which is always a question with the guys who really bring the heat.

Tana Pritchard looks to have held off Chester Sua. It looked like Sua was making a move a short time ago but Pritchard has reclaimed his reps with the 1s of late. That said, these two have been mostly interchangeable. Pritchard’s edge, from our chair, is that he’s simply made more plays.

The battle between Kache Palacio and Ivan McLennan never seemed to materialize. Palacio has been the better of the two but hasn’t made a ton of great plays either. That said, he figures to get more opportunities to shine when the season begins and the Cougs start looking to put more real pressure on the QBs.

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