WSU post-spring position battles: Offense

MIKE LEACH would prefer to feature one running back on Saturdays -- if one from the group could emerge as the clear leader. Given what the ‘backs did this spring, it’s hard to see that happening in 2016. That group, plus one of the wide receiver spots, headline the top position battles on offense heading into fall ball in August.

We picked the brain of Tyler Baker, the former WSU wide receiver who covered every spring football practice for, to get the scoop on how the position battles shape up coming out of the spring session. We'll have the defensive position battles update later this week.

No question as to the starter, with Luke Falk at the controls.  The battle for No. 2, however, is pitched.   Baker sees Peyton Bender with the slightest of edges, with Tyler Hilinski having the better spring game.  Bender has a great arm and when he puts it all together and makes the right decisions, he can be really good in spurts.  Hilinski took more chances this spring and it cost him in terms of interceptions. But this is a very close battle that figures to wage on well into August.

Gerard Wicks (pictured above) is the slight leader here, but it’s a paper-thin margin, says Baker.  Wicks is a bruiser and is faster than he appears but the biggest thing this spring was how much better he looked catching passes out of the backfield.  Jamal Morrow is steady and just does everything well, and James Williams continues to get better and better -- and looked great in the spring game.  Keith Harrington didn’t practice all spring due to injury.

There’s a lot less drama here than we thought there might be coming out of spring ball. Andre Dillard and Cody O’Connell took over the left tackle and left guard spots, respectively, at the start. And they ended the spring as the clear starting candidates. Returning starters Riley Sorenson at center, Eduardo Middleton at right guard and Cole Madison at right tackle remained the clear starters. The good news is the No. 1 unit looks promising and Mike Leach has said they can be as good, and hopefully better, than last year.

But one note, and it’s a potentially troubling one: the depth behind them this spring. Madison missed a large part of the session and WSU responded (mostly) by shifting guys around -- with arguably the best results coming in moving Middleton out and inserting second-year walk on Drew Norvell at guard.  Norvell looks to have a future at the Pac-12 level, and while B.J. Salmonson and Cedric Bigge-Duren also got some run with Madison out, it’s surprising they and others weren’t more of a slam dunk to fill in when one starter went down, including Carlos Freeman, Noah Osur-Myers and Amosa Sakaria. Fall ball will be very intriguing up front, despite the starters being pretty well set. It will be vital for the Cougs to have capable replacements should injury strike and WSU, from this chair, simply isn't there yet.

Robert Lewis and Kyle Sweet were battling all spring here, it’s virtually a dead heat.  Baker said he'd give perhaps the slightest of edges to Lewis, but then changed his mind and said in his mind it's pick 'em. Fall camp should provide some great theater at the H.

River Cracraft is your starter but Kyrin Priester did a nice job there this spring in moving inside – the Y could become an even bigger weapon for WSU if things continue on the same path, with Cracraft and Priester dishing out a strong 1-2 punch for all four quarters against defenses.

While Tavares Martin is the clear starter coming out of spring, with Kaleb Fossum backing him up and C.J. Dimry having been out this spring with injury, outside receivers coach Dave Nichol has made it clear two incoming freshmen, Dezmon Patmon and Grant Porter, will be given every chance to earn turns. WSU recruitnicks have long been excited about Patmon but keep an eye out for Porter too - if not for an injury he would have been more highly recruited coming out of high school.

Gabe Marks, ahem, is pretty well set here as the starter. What will be interesting is to see is how much rotation time rookie Isaiah Johnson can carve out in backing him up.


Cougfan Top Stories