WSU Notes: ‘Nooksack Nasty’ quietly moves up

IN ONE OF THE quietest moves up the depth chart we can remember, third-year sophomore B.J. Salmonson is listed, for the second-straight week, as Washington State's backup center behind Riley Sorenson.

Salmonson's move up is notable for two reasons.

One, because Sam Flor, who pushed Sorenson hard for the starter's job a year ago and made two starts last season, is still knocking heads, and Carlos Freeman appeared to be staking a claim at center in the spring and again in August workouts.

In addition, starting right guard Eduardo Middleton has seen some practice time at center, so if Sorenson got dinged up there's a chance Middleton would step in at center before Salmonson or anyone else.

WSU's sports information department says all four of those guys remain in the mix behind Sorenson, but that Salmonson has held a slight edge in reps the last two weeks.

Which brings us to the second reason why Salmonson's name on the depth chart is so notable: Since signing with WSU in 2012 out of tiny Nooksack Valley High, then grayshirting and then redshirting, his name has rarely entered the O-line conversation at WSU.

Now 30 pounds heavier than he was as a Class 1A All-State lineman on both sides of the ball, the time to bulk up and to adjust from single-A ball to the Pac-12 no doubt has been beneficial to him and the Cougars' depth. Salmonson is listed on this week’s release at 6-4, 295 pounds.

His rise may not be surprising to those who follow the program closely. In a June 2012 story on Cougfan.com, WSU offensive line coach Clay McGuire said Salmonson was tough and aggressive, but "small school guys typically play everything in high school" so they're well rounded athletically but sometimes behind in the weight room because they don't focus on one sport." They're usually just as good (as the rest), he concluded.

MEANWHILE, WSU WIDEOUT Dom Williams is on the verge of catching Mike Levenseller for No. 10 on WSU's career receiving list and Hugh Campbell for No. 3 on the career TD receptions list.

Williams has 1,935 receiving hashes, 116 yards behind Levenseller (2,051; 1975-77). Williams is also tied for fourth in the WSU record book with 19 TD grabs and has three to go to match Campbell's 22 (1960-62). (Marquess Wilson is second on the TD receptions list with 23, while Jason Hill had 32 TD receptions from 2003-05). Williams also owns six career 100-yard games, tied for 10th all-time in WSU history.

THE COUGS RUSHED FOR 104 yards against Portland State, the fifth 100-yard-game under Mike Leach and THE first since 2013, but it will be a surprise if there's a repeat at Rutgers on Saturday.

Rutgers kicked three defensive back starters off the team before the opener for off-field run ins with the law, several media outlets reported. So it’s thought Leach will have Luke Falk chuck it early and often, unlike the first half last week when Cougar running backs had 20 carries to Falk’s 24 pass attempts.

Walk on WR John Thompson caught three of those passes last week, matching his total from the previous two seasons.

SPEAKING OF FALK, WE, may have missed one or two along the way but we definitely charted three times last Saturday when he eschewed the shotgun and went under center. The results were middling. On the first, in the second WSU possession of the game, Falk passed 10-yards to Thompson, who made a nice adjustment. The second play under center was a loss of 1-yard on a Gerard Wicks carry on the Cougs' fourth drive, and the last one we charted was a fumbled snap that lost 2 yards on the sixth drive.

WSU AND THE BIG TEN don't face off very often. In the last 13 years, the Cougs have played Big Ten opponents just three times, losing all three -- a 25-7 decision at Ohio State in 2002, a 42-21 loss at Wisconsin in 2007 and the 41-38 setback to Rutgers in Seattle last season.

WSU owns a 13-23-1 record against Big Ten teams overall -- the last win came in the 2001 Sun Bowl (Purdue, 33-27). Leach isn’t all that familiar with the Big Ten either, he’s 1-3 against Big Ten teams over his career at WSU and Texas Tech.

THE PAC-12 NETWORKS this past Saturday listed Washington State as having the second-most Polynesian players in the Pac-12 (behind Utah). WSU has 15 players on the roster of Polynesian descent (the Pac-12 Network graphic listed 16 but it's actually 15, as WSU's weekly release states). Seven of those 15 players list a hometown in American Samoa.

WHEN THE COUGS HOST Wyoming next weekend, 25 new members will be inducted into WSU's Athletic Hall of Fame. Among the eight football notables are a pair of legendary defensive backs and running backs: Marcus Trufant and Lamont Thompson and Jerome Harrison and Steve Broussard.


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