WSU football: 5 Cougars to watch

IT DIDN’T START out this way but when we trimmed down our list of five Cougars to watch in 2015, it turned out to be quite an eclectic list. Some of the selections were obvious, others turned out to be more obscure.

E Darryl Paulo

A fifth-year senior with three starts last season, the 6-2, 265-pound Paulo provided a spark in 2014 with seven tackles for loss among his 18 stops. As the post-spring No. 1 end on the depth chart, the challenge now is to produce at a similar clip over the course of a full season as a starter.

QB Luke Falk

The quarterback is always going to be any team's headliner but in Mike Leach’s system, the offense is even more dependent on the QB. ranked Falk No. 10 in its preseason rankings of Pac-12 quarterbacks. If Falk in ’15 plays like he did in his first start against Oregon State last fall, their postseason rankings will look far different -- assuming Falk holds off Peyton Bender in fall camp.

Nickel Darius Lemora

The Cougs changed up their base defense this spring, eliminating the SAM in favor of the NICKEL. The new philosophy in Pullman under first-year defensive coordinator Alex Grinch is being implemented to better defend spread offenses, particularly in limiting explosive pass plays of 10-plus and 20-plus yards. And it may prove to be the determining factor in success or failure on the defensive side of the ball in ’15.

H Robert Lewis

If the post-spring depth chart holds true, opponents on any given week figure to have their hands full with Cougar receivers River Cracraft, Dom Williams and Gabe Marks. It seems certain opposing defenses will at times overcommit on that trio, and that could open up Lewis at the H to post some big games.

WR Brett Bartolone

By now all CougFans know his story - as a true freshman Bartolone led the team in receptions (53) and was named honorable mention All-Pac-12. Since then, he’s been beset by injuries, appearing in only five games the last two years. A fourth-year junior this season, can Bartolone pull off a second act in '15?

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