5 Cougs to watch this spring

SPRING FOOTBALL OUT on the Palouse is just a little more than a month away. For these five Cougars, the tandem weight of expectations and golden opportunity figure to render spring drills to far more than just 15 days of practices and scrimmages.

Safety ISAAC DOTSON (6-1, 218) was thought to be in prime position this past season for a starting role opposite Taylor Taliulu as a true sophomore in 2014 but was sidelined by injury and wound up redshirting. He'll be looking to regain his place in the pecking order but the path will be tougher given the playing experience gained in '14 by Darius Lemora and Sulaiman Hameed. Holdover Deion Singleton could be in the mix here or at corner and there's addition of four-star JC transfer Shalom Luani, who will arrive in the fall, as well.

Inside receiver ROBERT LEWIS (5-9, 162) played at both the Y and H last season as a second-year freshman, and became more reliable as the season wore on. Lewis (also pictured at top of story) caught 41 passes for 370 yards and two touchdowns. He also made some impressive blocks. With River Cracraft seemingly locked in as the starting Y with Tyler Baker also coming on there at the end of 2014, Lewis figures to battle Calvin Green and ) for the right to replace graduated Rickey Galvin at the H. Lewis has both speed and a good burst, something we could see more of this spring as he continues to gain confidence from experience.

Linebacker PEYTON PELLUER (6-0, 224) started the final four games at MIKE in place of Darryl Monroe last season as a second-year freshman and showed a clear nose for the ball -- he finished with 39 tackles (19 solo). But he's far from a lock with second-year sophomore Frankie Luvu (6-2, 219) an inside possibility and two second-year freshmen who spent the past season redshirting -- Chandler Leniu (6-0, 250) and Greg Hoyd (6-1, 225) -- figure to challenge this spring. Waiting in the wings is touted junior college transfer Aaron Porter (6-3, 230) who arrives this summer.

Quarterback PEYTON BENDER (6-3, 183) is mechanically sound and consistent in his throwing motion. He also possesses a quick release, strong arm and solid footwork. So while Luke Falk figures to come into spring ball as the heir apparent to Connor Halliday, Bender has the tools -- if not the experience -- to make it a true horse race. Bender has always been good in throwing the deep ball, while Falk will come into the spring with a slight edge on the short- and medium-range throws. But when Bender got on a roll in Thursday Night Football last season, he really stringed it together. What remains to be seen this spring is how much Bender has improved his reads, pocket presence, decision making and accuracy on the short- and mid-range routes.

Cornerback MARCELLUS PIPPINS (5-10, 163) had his redshirt burned late last season and he turned in solid play in the final three games -- two of which he started. But even with Daquawn Brown's dismissal from the team and Kevin Griffin's transfer, Pippins' path to a starting job will be far from easy. Charleston White, who started seven games in 2014, is back as is Pat Porter, who started two. Sebastian Larue, assuming he stays at corner and doesn't move back to receiver, would have played and possibly even started last year had he been eligible, Mike Leach said towards the end of last season and Jeff Farrar is also in the mix. All that said, Pippins impressed in the few games he played in last season. Having now gotten his feet wet, he might be ready to take next step. If so, he's off to a good start - he was among the black-shirted standouts in the recent Midnight Maneuvers sessions.

Cougfan Top Stories