WR Gabe Marks (USA Today)

WSU WRs coach Nichol: Looking for war daddies

THE X AND Z positions in Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense correspond to the two outside wide receivers. Washington State’s new outside WRs coach Dave Nichol, in a conversation with CF.C, labeled them a little differently: war daddies.

“Typically, and I always emphasize typically because it changes sometimes, but typically if you want to categorize them, the inside receivers are the crafty ones, find the soft spot in the zone, at times they have to be more cerebral.  And the outside guys, they have to go be your war daddies,” Nichol told CF.C.

There figures to be a good deal that will go into being a war daddy under Nichol in 2016.

“They have to beat man coverage, they have to go catch the post, and hit the slip screen,” said Nichol. “Whether they’re big, strong or quick, their abilities have a lot to do with their success and I’ve always tried to match those abilities with really being coached up.”

The numbers are one thing in the Air Raid, Nichol says, but the bottom line is all that matters.

“Look, in this offense, you’re going to get catches,” said Nichol. “But those competitive ones, they want to go win the game.

“Coaching ‘em hard with precision on routes, pad level and timing and steps, now you match that with the inherent abilities that we hopefully recruited, and now you’re playing with something.”

What are the main things that determine whether an outside receiver is going to be an X or a Z? 

“Historically, because there are variations on all of it, but I think the X… the routes that he runs are simpler and there are less routes,” said Nichol. “So he’s probably the ultimate position in this offense as far as, ‘You get good at these few things. And if you do, you’re going to be great.’  And the Z, he can still move around a little bit formation-wise. The Z for the most part still just goes to the left (pre-snap). The Z is going to move around and because of that, he has some more things he needs to know and be concerned with.”

"It really has to do with the skills set and I always say, the ball finds you. At East Carolina this past year, our best receiver was our H. Historically, that’s not the guy that gets the most balls. But he was the best receiver and you know what, the ball found him. That’s just how it works.”

Nichol said he was at every El Paso Sun Bowl practice the Cougs had, though as an observer on the sideline while outgoing assistant Graham Harrell finished up his WSU tenure before heading to North Texas.

“I got to hang out and watch practice and judging from that, I’m pretty fired up with the guys I’m coaching,” said Nichol.  “It was just hanging out watching them so I can’t speak a lot about exactly what I think I have, except for just watching them physically.”

Starting Z Gabe Marks is of course back having decided to stay at WSU rather than go pro.  And although Dom Williams graduates, the Cougars return Kyrin Priester and Tavares Martin.  Little is known as to what C.J. Dimry will bring to the table since battled the injury bug his first season with WSU in '15 but the Cougs certainly want to take advantage of his 6-5 frame. True freshman Isaiah Johnson (6-3) will also be on the WSU practice field this spring, having enrolled early, though he told CF.C he might get his first look on the inside.

There’s also a large WR class expected to sign in February that will arrive later this summer for fall camp -- Nichol might find a few war daddies in that group as well.

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