WSU fall camp preview: Quarterbacks

LUKE FALK is one of the country's best college quarterbacks and firmly entrenched as the Cougar starter heading into fall camp -- any fall camp questions regarding Falk all have to do with how far he can lead the Cougars in 2016 coming off a 9-4 season. Behind Falk, however, there is intrigue aplenty headed into fall ball at Washington State.

Returners:   Luke Falk (6-4, 214); Tyler Hilinski (6-3, 191); Christian Jorgensen (6-2, 195, walk on)

New faces: Anthony Gordon (6-3, 185); Justus Rogers (6-2, 218, QB/ATH); Bryce Missey (6-0, 190, walk on); Trey Tinsley (6-3, 205 walk on)

Departed: Peyton Bender

What to like: Falk had a phenomenal season a year ago - and he still has two more seasons of college eligibility. 

A first-team All-Pac-12 selection in 2015, Falk's numbers were eye popping (448 of 645 passing for 4,566 hashes with 38 touchdown against but 8 interceptions) but what sets him apart, and what should have him squarely in the Heisman discussion, is his ability perform in the clutch. Plenty of QBs considered to be elite falter when it comes to lead game-winning drives in crunch time. Not Falk.

Three offensive linemen return from last season to protect Falk in the pocket and he has senior wideouts Gabe Marks and River Cracraft, along with a number of rising youngsters in the receiver corps, to throw to in '16.  From media to fans, just about everyone is predicting a big year for Falk, He landed on three of the major college football award watch lists this month.

WSU also looks to have the strongest running back corps WSU has had in years and while that will surely manifest itself in the passing game numbers, Falk has no hesitation about checking to the run when the numbers in the box call for it. In other words, Falk could have lesser numbers than than '15, but a better year.

However the numbers shake out, with Falk at the helm there isn't a team on the schedule WSU can't beat.

Biggest question: In the parlance of twitter, #KeepFalkUpright.  Cougar fans saw what happened in the Apple Cup when Falk missed the start. Falk suffered two apparent head injuries in the latter half of last season but came back strong in the Sun Bowl despite being sacked twice.

With Bender's departure, WSU does not feature a QB on the roster apart from Falk who has played a down of Pac-12 football. That's cause for concern should Falk, heaven forbid, get dinged up.  The good news? Hilinski is coming off a solid spring and a very solid spring game.  Gordon has a boatload of potential after leading CCSF to the state junior college title (and the mythical JUCO national title) as a true freshman.

Some of the fall camp storylines: Mike Leach is a creature of habit, he doesn't change things around when it comes to routine or practice. Still, it will be interesting to see if in the early going of fall camp, Leach treats it like the early going in bowl practices when it comes to the QBs.  If so, that could lead to some bonus drama between Hilinski and Gordon. 

Hilinski has the edge heading into fall camp, having prepped a full season under Leach. But don't sleep on Gordon. He led all California junior college quarterbacks with 3,864 passing yards and 37 touchdowns this past season, completing 286-of-439 pass attempts (65.1 percent), recorded seven 300-yard games and just missed averaging 300 hashes per game (297.2).

More important than the numbers, Gordon looks like a perfect fit for Leach’s offense, with the premium on accuracy and decision making. All that said, expecting Gordon to come in and immediately pick up all the nuances, and surpass Hilinski in the process, may be asking a lot.

Meanwhile, Rogers, Tinsley and Missey will all be looking to prove their worth and establish themselves as the darkhorse candidate for the backup job. And don't forget about Jorgensen, who as a true freshman effectively served as the No. 3 QB last year. While WSU wanted to preserve Hilinski’s redshirt was a big part of the reason he was No. 3, it was also because Leach likes what he has in the Lorgensen, particularly his accuracy.

--Rogers continues to be listed by WSU as QB/ATH on the roster. 

--Fall camp kicks off Aug. 6 in Lewiston.


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