5 things to watch in WSU spring game

SATURDAY’S SPRING GAME won’t feature Washington State's No. 1 units going against each other. Instead, the starters will be divided amongst the two teams. That adds another layer to an already healthy amount of storylines headed into the showdown at Joe Albi Stadium in Spokane. Here are five things to watch in Saturday’s tilt (Pac-12 Networks, 1 p.m.)

1. Luke Falk, Peyton BenderTyler Hilinski
Falk is the unquestioned starter but the battle for the No. 2 spot rages on.  This will be most fans first chance to see Bender and Hilinski this spring and how many reps each one gets could be just as educational as what they do with them. Meanwhile, Cougar Nation is looking for a big day from starter Falk, with hopes high for the Air Raid in 2016 to build upon last year’s 9-win season.

2. Tavares Martin (pictured above)
Martin has been hit or miss this spring at the X. While Gabe Marks and River Cracraft are the two wideouts most likely to put on a show, there would be no better way for Martin to turn the corner than to have a big day at the Crimson and Gray game. 

3. The o-line vs. d-line
There figures to be plenty of switching around on the offensive line with players designated ready to play for both teams. That can make it tough with players not familiar with lining up next to one another. But they also hold one natural advantage – Mike Leach tends not to run blitzes in his spring games. That should put the onus on the d-line to create the pressure that in turn can lead to the D’s top priority – takeaways.  With the starters on both lines more established than is normally the case in the spring on a Leach team, Saturday will be big for the backups to state their case to be in the conversation.  The play of Ngalu Tapa and Garrett McBroom on the d-line in particular should be compelling to watch.

4. The running backs
With the running backs unit one of the offense's strengths, this is another area where it should be instructive to see how the reps are split up between Gerard WicksJamal Morrow and James Williams --  and how many times the 'backs are targeted in the passing game. With Keith Harrington out with injury this spring, any of the three could make a statement with a big day in Spokane.

5. The defensive backfield
The secondary has been solid all spring.  But Leach and the offense would like to have a big day and with a few less things to correct on Tuesday in the final spring practice at Washington State. Expect a battle royale with each QB laser focused on beating the defensive backs and getting into the end zone.


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