Spokane Cougs clued in on 'perfect' WR in making by Graham Harrell

SPOKANE -- Monday’s Spokane Cougar Club luncheon, where Coug fans visit weekly with a WSU football coach, felt very different. For starters, the room was significantly more crowded – even more so than when Mike Leach came during WSU’s bye. When outside receivers coach Graham Harrell talked about building the perfect receiver, and then pointed to a WSU true freshman, the crowd went wild.

Graham Harrell talked at length about the Washington State receiving corps and its future after senior Dom Williams graduates, with juniors Gabe Marks and River Cracraft not far behind.

“We’ve always said that we’d like to take Dom Williams and Gabe Marks and put them together,” he said. “Dom is a great route runner and Gabe is just an incredibly competitive kid. If we put them together, they’d be the perfect receiver.

“Well, I think Tavares Martin is that guy. He already does some incredible things in the return game. You’re going to see that as he gets on the field more and more.”

Harrell said the Cougars have a strong group of young receivers battling it out in the team’s Thursday Night scrimmages.

“In this offense, you can never have enough good, big receivers -- we have a bunch of them,” said Harrell.

(WSU has four WR verbals in Mike Leach’s 2016 class, with Stephen Houston the tallest at 6-3. Click here for the verbal commit list).

There was a positive charge in the room from the very start of Monday’s luncheon. This, after a WSU loss.

One Spokane Cougar Clubber told Harrell the walk to his car following a WSU loss is usually grumpy and frequently bitter.

“That wasn’t the case this time,” he said. “Those kids played a great game against the only NFL team left in the Pac-12!”

The sentiment earned a rousing round of applause.

Harrell described the atmosphere in the locker room and around the program following the heartbreaking 30-28 loss to the Stanford Cardinal. 

“The guys are upset,” he said. “But they’re upset because they think they should have won. Before when they lost a game like this they’d be upset, but they’d feel okay about it because they played well. Not anymore. They think they can win every time they step on the field and that’s where we want them to be.”

Harrell brought the usual video highlight package with him, but he kept his commentary brief -- his audience already was on the same page.

Gerard Wicks unning the football?

“He ran the ball as well as he’s run all year,” Harrell said to a room full of nodding heads.

Cracraft? Offensive line?

“River gets a matchup that works and he makes a nice catch on a good ball thrown by Luke Falk – kind of a back-shoulder throw and he makes a nice play on the ball,” said Harrell. “Look at Cole Madison right here. He stands his guy up and pancakes him.”

Nodding heads and smiling faces.

Marks? Harrell paused during his narration of the play.

“Well,” Harrell laughed, “we tell guys that we want them to give themselves a cushion on the sideline here so they can handle the fade if they need to. Gabe basically does none of the things we try to coach him to do on this play, but he just goes and makes the catch.”

Nodding heads, smiling faces and knowing laughter of the ‘Oh, that Gabe!’ variety.

When Harrell shifted to defense, he began with a jailbreak sack by the WSU defensive front, with four Cougs pummeling Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan on the play.

Nodding heads, smiling faces and a healthy dose of ooohs and aaahs followed.

Harrell showed Hercules Mata'afa running down a Stanford running back and Harrell talks about how “small” the defensive lineman from Lahaina, Maui is.

“How small is he?” was asked.

“He’s about 240 pounds,” Harrell laughed, then pointed at three members of Stanford’s offensive line. “When you’re going up against 320, 320, 320? That’s small.”  (Mata’afa is listed on the official WSU roster at 6-2, 242).

Harrell started to show a defensive alignment with Ivan McLennan name circled in red. Before he could run the play, the lunch crowd was ready to jump the route.

By the time Harrell showed McLennan strip the ball from Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey the was a noisy consensus that the Cougars were robbed.

“Yeah,” Harrell said. “I thought we should have gotten that one.”

“Did the Pac-12 call yet to apologize?” someone yelled.

“I don’t think the Pac-12 apologizes for things the way the ACC does,” Harrell laughed.

Harrell was asked about the second interception Falk threw to Stanford freshman cornerback Quenton Meeks.

“First, I think the kid (Meeks) just made an outstanding play,” he said. “But really, we needed to do a better job blocking him. That was the same screen pass that Gabe Marks scored on last week at Arizona. We block that better that’s potentially a big play.”

(Harrell did not identify the player but ESPN replays showed Meeks fighting through No. 2 Y receiver John Thompson’s block).

Harrell was also adamant in his support of kicker Erik Powell.

“Look, Erik played a great game and he’s a big part of what put us in position to win that game,” he said. “If he makes that kick he’s probably named the national Special Teams Player of the Week for kicking six field goals to beat Stanford. No way can you put all this on him – he doesn’t deserve it.”

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