WSU will be a WR hub this spring

THERE ARE QUESTIONS GALORE this spring at wide receiver for Washington State, both inside and out. To start with, what kind of production will Gabe Marks produce over the course of 15 practices? After all, Marks led the Cougars in receptions (74) and receiving yards (807) in 2013 before redshirting last season. And what about the other three wideout positions in the Air Raid?

Last year, Marks was injured and Isiah Myers passed him up on the depth chart. Marks now has the opportunity to step back into the limelight with Myers and Vince Mayle gone.

Marks is expected to return to the Z spot and he won't need to be a one-man band this season if Dom Williams (6-2, 190) does what many think he's going to do at the X. Williams had 43 catches for 656 yards with nine TDs last season despite playing behind Mayle this past season and not being credited with a 2014 start.

On the inside, River Cracraft (6-0, 199) lines up at the Y and brings with him the ability to keep opposing secondaries guessing - especially on third down. Cracraft was injured over the final third of the season and his absence and/or not being at full strength limited the Cougs' ability at key junctures. Some of his chain-moving grabs before he got dinged up were simply stellar.

Had Cracraft played in all 12 games his numbers could have been something to see. As it was, he still hauled in 66 receptions for 771 yards with eight TDs while being credited for participating in nine games with eight starts.

At the H, Washington State has options in replacing Rickey Galvin (37 catches, 400 yards, 3 TDs). Though Calvin Green (5-10, 170) was also listed on the depth chart at the Z at the end of last year, it would figure Green will compete for that H spot. And he'll have company.

Tyler Baker (5-10, 181) filled in for Cracraft last year at the end of last year and put up some crooked reception numbers, while Robert Lewis (5-9, 162) played at both the H and Y last season.

Mike Leach's oft-stated goal is to make defenses constantly account for all of the Cougars' skill players and though there can be only four starters, Leach likes to use an eight-man rotation, all things being equal. Among those who fit that mold headed into the spring, while still figuring to challenge for starting roles, include:

Barry Ware (6-2, 213) on the outside and Brett Bartolone (5-10, 185) on the inside. Ware was often able to create separation in the secondary, but would then sometime drop passes. He would follow that up with an impressive catch in traffic for a touchdown or in the intermediate range. Bartolone has been plagued by injuries since the 2012 season when he led the team with 53 catches as a true freshman.

Zaire Andre (5-10, 157) showed both promise as well as uncertainty in Thursday Night Football last season. Andre was not targeted as often as some others in TNF because he didn't get open as often. He had some nice TD catches, but he also dropped some catchable balls as well.

Fifth-year-senior-to-be Daniel Lilienthal (6-2, 199) also did some good work in Thursday Night Football last season and he could be peaking at the right time. He might not start, but he could be valuable as a substitute.

Two others walk ons bear mention: John Thompson (5-7, 189) demonstrated quickness over the middle and sure hands. Marcus Wyke (6-3, 218) out of Lakes High showed up midway through last season and grabbed attention because of his size and physicality. Both have an uphill climb to surpass the players mentioned above but spring will afford them the opportunity to see what they've done over the offseason.

Two final notes: Drew Loftus, who would have been a fifth-year senior walk on, may have pushed for a spot in the eight-man rotation but he left the team around the time of Midnight Maneuvers. And watch for how the Cougars use Nick Begg this spring, who will be a redshirt freshman this season. He was sidelined by an injury for most of last year, but he is listed as a tight end and was working with the receivers during fall camp. He was listed at 6-5, 253-pounds last year.

Cougfan Top Stories