5 surprises from WSU's spring season

WITH XAVIER COOPER leaving early for the NFL and Toni Pole graduating, conventional thinking was that Washington State's development on defense this spring would be an uphill climb.

But the Cougar D ended up being one of the spring's five surprises ...

1. Cougar D caught onto the new schemes fast

Make no mistake, this Cougar D has a long way to go. But it looked better than expected this spring. The Cougs took to the new nickel packages from coordinator Alex Grinch (pictured above) and the d-line in particular looked much more cohesive as the spring session progressed.

2. A slightly different take on the o-line

The o-line, with all the starters returning and a solid group in reserve, received a lot of praise from Mike Leach this spring. But the performance wasn't all good. Maybe expectations were too high, but there were many times this spring when the OL looked very average against their defensive counterparts.

3. Keith Harrington

Sure, there were times he was held in check but the second-year freshman running back was explosive. He's going to be fun to watch this fall. He tripped up a defense in good position to make the tackle on many, many occasions this spring. It's a given he'll be used in rotation and if he can fix some consistency issues, he's likely to challenge for the starting job.

4. The secondary

The Cougar defensive backs looked serviceable this spring, which is a ringing endorsement given the expectations for the unit. Marcellus Pippins, despite a quiet spring game, stood out most. As a group, it's clear they're focused more on making picks and getting hands on balls. The secondary will be better than last year, but the question is by how much.

5. Gabe Marks

It probably doesn't qualify as a surprise but Gabe Marks was on fire this spring. One might have expected at least some adjustment after the wideout sat out last season but Luke Falk in particular showed an excellent chemistry with Marks this spring.

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