Five quick WSU takeaways through Day 16

PULLMAN—With only a quick walk through scheduled for Wednesday, it's a good time to review. One could reasonably expect that the Cougars are beyond the big tweaks and are now in the fine-tuning stages for the opener just eight days away. That does seem to be true of the starting defense, there aren’t as many moving parts among the stop corps. In some other phases of the game, however, stay tuned.

1.) A younger, but consistent secondary
If the season started tomorrow, it looks to me like Taylor Taliulu and Darius Lemora would be the safety duo taking the field against Rutgers. Sophomore Isaac Dotson spent most of his time in Lewiston on the sideline or holding kicks, so redshirt freshman Lemora stepped in, took his reps, and showed what he can do with the first-team defense. Dotson has made his presence known since rejoining the action, breaking up passes and intercepting a pass on the second day of practices back in Pullman.

Right now, though, he is with the second team alongside Teondray Caldwell, who has recently switched to safety and is the only big change the Cougars have made lately on defense. Caldwell, by the way, has done some good early work in making the transition.

2.) Long road back for an old veteran
Gabe Marks has traveled down the depth chart with respect to the several other candidates at the Z receiving position. While head coach Mike Leach didn’t confirm that Marks will stay on the scout team for an extended period of time, he also did not deny it.

Meanwhile, Leach has consistently sung the praises of Kristoff Williams and Isiah Myers and for good reason – I’ve seen them repeatedly made explosive plays and in different areas of the field. Remember that earlier in camp, Myers made one of the best catches Leach has ever seen.

And Williams, to me, has shown that he can propel his 6-2 frame into the air to nab passes that are placed higher than normal.

3.) Swinging door on the O-line
The offensive line is not deep, and while the group to man is much larger than the last two years, it is limited in terms of numbers should injuries strike. The presence (and return) of Joe Dahl at the left tackle has been a blessing for O-line coach Clay McGuire because he was piecing together his group of guys since the beginning of camp in Lewiston. Now, he has a lineup that looks fairly well set from left to right in Dahl, Gunnar Eklund, Riley Sorenson, Eduardo Middleton (pictured above) and Cole Madison.

There’s been no official verdict on the battle between Sorenson and Sam Flor for the center spot, but on the field it’s been Sorenson. For the first three days of camp, Flor was the No. 1 guy, but when Dahl wasn’t able to practice on the third day, the shuffling began, and since the fourth day of camp, it was Sorenson’s job.

Middleton has had an interesting camp. He started with the 2's but after Dahl was limited, he joined the starters at left guard. As soon as Dahl was able to practice fully, Middleton vacated his spot at left guard and uprooted Jacob Seydel, who was consistently playing at the No. 1 right guard spot. Since Dahl's return, McGuire has also given players like B.J. Salmonson, Seydel and walk on Jacob Tweten a look at the right guard position but it looks like Middleton is the guy there headed into the opener against Rutgers.

Cody O’Connell made an appearance there on Tuesday, despite being inactive for the entire camp up until that point. It’s worth watching to see if O’Connell, now seemingly close to full health, will make a move.

4.) Either/or at the H:
The H receiver position has been partnered by Rickey Galvin and Calvin Green during this preseason, and both have demonstrated their ability to run various routes and create space. Talk about close …the only real difference to me is that Galvin is a redshirt senior, while Green is a true freshman.

This could be an important battle to watch up until game day because Green has made a case to start, and is still receiving opportunities to cycle in with the first-teamers.

One thing that does seem likely -- Leach's litmus test for redshirting a guy is whether or not he's in the two-deeps, and Green is certainly that.

You always want to redshirt as many guys as you can but another reason it would make sense to play Green is that Galvin had four receiving touchdowns and 311 receiving yards a year ago. And that's not bad at all in an offense that spreads the ball around. But you can also make a case that there could be more production out of that position -- and Green has a lot of speed.

5.) Special teams are anybody’s guess:
Freshman cornerback Marcellus Pippins and sophomore wide receiver River Cracraft have been returning punts, and Kristoff Williams and Galvin have lined up to return kickoffs during practices.

As punters Wes Concepcion and Jordan Dascalo have launched booming punts down the field, neither of the returners have yet shown they can consistently field the ball cleanly. In my book, Cracraft has looked better than Pippins, who stayed after practice on Tuesday to practice catching punts from a machine.

In terms of kickoff returns, Williams looks like he is able to elude tacklers as the Cougs have operated drills at half-speed, but going full speed might be a different story.

Both the redshirt-junior Concepcion and true freshman Dascalo are receiving equal reps at the punter position.

Redshirt freshman Erik Powell and redshirt junior Quentin Breshears continue to face off in the place-kicking game, and both have improved their accuracy considerably since an abysmal first few practices. Who leads there? I would say Powell. He's been more consistent from what I’ve seen.

The gunners, you ask? Well, I've seen a whole slew of them getting turns there -- Daquawn Brown, Theron West, Marcus Mason, Galvin, Williams, Taliulu, Lemora, and Cyrus Coen.

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