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Fall camp: 5 WSU veterans with the most to prove

SOME ARE STARTERS, some are reserves, but they all have one thing in common. These five Washington State veterans have something to prove when the Cougs’ fall camp gets underway in Lewiston on Aug. 6.

1. Carlos Freeman (pictured above)
The 6-3, 308-pounder will be a fourth-year junior this season. He is an exceptional student, with a 4.0 in construction management at WSU.  He also has yet to appear in a game for the Cougs. 

The Oklahoman came out of high school with plenty of accolades: All-State, District  3 and Mid-State Conference Offensive Lineman of the Year, a member of The Oklahoman’s  Super 30  and the No.  25-rated  center prospect nationally on Scout.com.

With so little proven depth behind the projected starting five on the o-line, and with Freeman entering his fourth fall camp at WSU, he is being counted upon to step up and deliver.

2.  B.J. Salmonson
This past September, the 6-4, 281-pound Salmonson made a sudden move up the depth chart -- passing both Sam Flor and Carlos Freeman -- to become the No. 2 center on the chart. But as the season moved along, that wasn’t a representative look at how practice shaped up, and it didn’t hold true in games either as Flor was the guy who came in.

The 'Nooksack Nasty' is versatile enough that he can play multiple position on the o-line, seeing action in 11 games this past season, all on special teams.  This spring, however, neither Salmonson (nor anyone else) mounted a serious challenge to any of the incumbents on the starting line.

WSU would be well served if he the fourth-year junior (also grayshirted in coming out of Class 1A ball in Everson, Wash.,) can make some noise in fall camp and mount a challenge.

3. Daniel Ekuale
Penciled in as the starting tackle on the defensive line, Ekuale is also a fourth-year junior.  He played in 13  games last season with one start, recording 22 tackles, 5 for loss, and forcing a fumble.

But he hasn't come close to reaching his potential.

His combination of speed and strength could prove to be big-time if he starts to put it all together this fall camp. 

4. Robert Lewis
Lewis started nine games this past season and has 12 over the past two seasons. At the H in fall camp, Lewis figures to be locked in a battle with rising second-year sophomore Kyle Sweet for the starting job. But more than that for fourth-year junior, this fall camp and 2016 season figure to be about reaching his potential.

Lewis was no slouch last season, he was the Cougs' fourth-leading receiver last season with 43 receptions.  It can also be argued the most important catch of the 2015 season belonged to Lewis: if Lewis' didn't make the eight-yard grab on fourth-and-five at Rutgers, that game is over and the Cougs would have fallen to 0-2.

But the 162-pounder holds a similarity to the 296-pound Ekuale -- he has more than he's shown. There were stretches last year where he just didn't have the same impact. Lewis is quick with a good burst -- a few long runs after the catch in fall camp and on into the season could make all the difference. Lewis was also bigger this spring and was beginning to become more vocal.

5. Charleston White
If this spring was any indication, White is going to be counted upon to be a key contributor. Whether it's at corner or safety, whether he's a starter or a backup that gets a good amount of reps, the fourth-year junior figures to see the field and in crucial situations.

White spent this spring at safety rather than his usual corner spot and he is one of the fastest players on the team. So what's to prove?

Darrien Molton has one corner on lockdown and Shalom Luani the same at one of the safety positions. There's a rich blend of competition for the other two spots facing White, including CB Marcellus Pippins and freshman phenom safety Jalen Thompson -- plus rising corner Deion Singleton, Hunter Dale will be a second-year sophomore and incoming JUCO safety Robert Taylor could be ready to challenge for a starting job this August.

Working in White's favor - he showed a knack for interceptions this spring. And that's what WSU defensive coordinator and secondary coach Alex Grinch prizes most in a DB:  a ball hawk.

RELATED STORY: Salmonson moves up depth chart


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