Two will see strong safety PT, says Leach

PULLMAN—The only person who seems to have complete Week One job security among the WSU safeties is free safety Taylor Taliulu, Mike Leach indicated Tuesday. Leach said that the competition for the spot opposite of Taliulu remains tightly-contested between Isaac Dotson, Darius Lemora and Teondray Caldwell. Leach was also asked about Gabe Marks and if injury could play a role in redshirt decision.

Dotson (pictured above) was thought to be the guy heading into the season, but the depth chart now lists Lemora ahead of Dotson. Meanwhile, as CF.C has reported the past several days, the product on the field has continued to show Caldwell with the first-team defense alongside Taliulu.

Leach on Tuesday said that two of the three players fighting for the SS starting job will play on Thursday against Rutgers.

Caldwell has gone from a running back hitting the seam in the defense to switching seamlessly to the safety position over the past two weeks or so.

“It really did, almost surprisingly so. He’s always been a quick guy, pretty athletic guy, not afraid to be physical,” Leach said. “I think the extra space he’s had the opportunity to work with has really helped him. He really sorts things out pretty quick. He does seem pretty natural back there.”

The secondary in general is inexperienced with Deone Bucannon moving onto the NFL, but Leach also offered an attractive, albeit ultra-optimistic thought on what the 2014 group might do this season.

“For all we know, they’ll be better than the guys that left, but by the same token, there’s always a little adjustment, too,” Leach said.

Keep in mind that Bucannon and Damante Horton combined for 11 interceptions and 163 total tackles in 2013.

One guy the new secondary will be charged with containing is Rutgers 6-6, 240-pound tight end Tyler Kroft, who caught four touchdowns last season and racked up 573 receiving yards.

“I think that’s kind of important. I think that he’s a guy they like to go to in key situations,” Leach said. “With tight ends, just by definition of a tight end, there’s a physical mismatch there so you’ve got to be conscious of those guys,” Leach said. “Especially if he’s got good ball skills, and this guy has proven to at times.”

On the other side of the ball, Leach had some positive things to say about backup running back Gerard Wicks, and some shifty comments about wide receiver Gabe Marks.

Leach said he thinks Wicks compares well to the Cougars’ leading scorer on the ground last season, Jeremiah Laufasa, who ran for seven touchdowns in 2013.

“I think Gerard is more explosive than Laufasa. He’s not quite as experienced yet, but he’s more explosive, so I think there’s a lot that he can do,” Leach said. “I think, as good as he is, he’s emerging and getting better all the time.”

As for Marks, Leach stayed mostly quiet about the prospect of redshirting the Z receiver who has struggled with health in the offseason leading up to this year. He also faced stiff competition from redshirt senior Kristoff Williams and senior Isiah Myers, who sit above Marks on the most recent depth chart.

“We’ve got a bunch of guys playing really well, and then a couple of them are seniors,” Leach said. “What would go into the evaluation is, first, who the best two are, and second, just the timing of things. We’ve got two seniors also, so in the end, you want to give the most quality players the most playing time.”

According to Leach, health isn’t even an issue because in his mind, the team has been 100 percent healthy for about two and a half years, he said. That of course is Leach being Leach, who answers any questions regarding injuries by saying X player is 100 percent.

In any case, Leach hopes to see plenty of Cougar crimson in the seats of CenturyLink Field on Thursday.

“There’s a lot of Coug fans there in Seattle, more than any other spot in the country,” Leach said. “I think it will be some. Hopefully they turn out. Of course, it’s a Thursday game so I think that’ll limit the crowd a little bit. I hope it doesn’t. I hope everybody’s so fired up that they slam that place, because it is the loudest stadium in the NFL, and it does get loud.”

Leach also spoke highly of Rutgers offensive coordinator Ralph Friedgen and his schemes. Leach called Friedgen “established and sharp,” and said that Friedgen’s offense is one not to fall asleep on.

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