WSU Spring Ball: Things we’ve learned, Part I

SPRING BALL at Washington State is only six days in but already we’ve seen some significant developments, including these two on offense plus another on special teams.

1. As you know by now, unless the rock you're living under doesn't have wi-fi, Cougar quarterbacks Luke Falk and Peyton Bender have been taking snaps under center this spring. While the Cougs are always going to operate out of the shotgun under Mike Leach, the head man said the Cougs could run as many as 25 percent of their snaps from under center this season.

Leach said both QBs are better suited to taking the snap under center than Connor Halliday but the guess here is it might also have a lot to do with how Leach feels about his offensive line.

All five starters are back – LT Joe Dahl, LG Gunnar Eklund (pictured above), C Riley Sorenson, RG Eduardo Middleton, RT Cole Madison – and Leach seems to be feeling pretty good about the guys behind them this spring too, a group that includes Sam Flor, Cody O’Connell, Jacob Seydel, Sean Krepsz, Andre Dillard, Brandon Evers and Carlos Freeman.

Not that WSU is going to now run the ball every time the QB isn’t in the shotgun -- Leach said having the QB under center lends itself to a number of other plays, from “deep stuff to screens.”

Once ancillary benefit – recruiting. Every year a number of quarterbacks entering the draft are knocked for coming out of a spread, shotgun system. Having quarterbacks operate at least some of the time under center will help diminish that where WSU is concerned.

2. As expected, it’s been a tight position battle at quarterback. First-team reps have been split between the two.

Falk has looked comfortable. He has been quicker with his reads and looks to have better communication with his wideouts and that has manifested itself in Falk hitting his targets on the play side. Meanwhile, Bender has a gun and more physical tools, and he has done his best work in 11-on-11 situations.

Leach said after Tuesday’s practice he likes how explosive Bender can be, while saying Falk manages the offense nicely and never makes the same mistake twice in a row.

Leach isn’t expected to officially name a starting quarterback at the end of spring, though you never know. Here in the spring, it seems a good problem to have.

3. Washington State long has been known as Quarterback U, but a glance at the Cougars' spring roster suggests Long Snapper U might need to be added to the crimson list of monikers. That's because five -- yes, five -- long snappers are listed.

Rising sophomores Joe Lang of Pullman and Jerred Sonneborn of Spokane have been joined by junior college transfer walk on Lucas Gravelle of Erie Community College in Buffalo and two WSU freshmen who also have walked on: Kyle Celli out of Bishop Blanchet in Seattle and Chris Dalrymple of Sunnyside.

The five are seeking to replace graduated Alex Den Bleyker, who held down the Cougars' long-snapping chores for most of the last four seasons. Of the five, Lang is the most experienced -- he handled the snaps on Cougar punts in the final three games last season.

Six days of spring ball is a small sample size when it comes to special teams work and it things would appear to remain wide open when it comes to long snappers. That said, Gravelle has done a nice job through the first six practices and he’s also factoring into the two-deeps of some of the other special teams units. Lang, meanwhile, has been Mr. Steady.

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