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WSU outside wide receivers coach Dave Nichol on replacing Gabe Marks this season: It’s wide open

HOW DO YOU replace the catches when a star wide receiver like Gabe Marks graduates? CF.C asked outside receivers coach Dave Nichol that and for a rundown of his group with spring ball set to get underway next month.

In his second season with Washington State, Nichol said just because the Cougs will have a new starting Z receiver doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll be the leading receiver. It could, but odds are Luke Falk will probably be spreading the pigskin around more in ‘17.

“We’ll plug someone in there at Z, and Z needs to be very productive. But long story short, it will probably get spread out a little bit. We’ve got some guys who need to step up and at all (four WR) positions. We still want to have a lot of balance and we feel like we still have a lot of talent coming back. There’s some who people might not know as much about yet and they still have to grow up and all those kinds of things but all four receiver positions need to take on the challenge,” said Nichol.

Tavares Martin (pictured above) is the Cougs’ most experienced outside receiver coming back. He started all 13 games at the X receiver as a second-year sophomore in '16, caught 64 passes for 728 hashes with 7 TDs and averaged the second most yards per catch (11.4) among those with more than 27 receptions. (Marks averaged 10.0 ypc, River Cracraft led the team at  13.2).

“Tavares obviously did a bunch of good things this past year, he just needs to be consistent,” said Nichol.  “And he needs a real consistent spring and in all facets – weight room, on the field, classroom. (He) just needs to be working to be consistent in all that kind of stuff. It will be a big spring for him.

“I think other people have said, ‘He’s got to step up and be the guy.’  That will take care of itself, with him competing with other guys. I am excited for what he brings back to the table. He’s just kinda gotta keep growing up and maturing within the offense.”

That came up a lot in talking to Nichol about his outside receivers headed into the spring: the need for consistency and maturing within the offense. CF.C asked him who, on paper, heads into spring as the other frontrunner to start along with Martin.

“I guess it’s tough to say: Dez Patmon, C.J. Dimry, Isaiah Johnson.  Isaiah caught more balls than those other guys and obviously he is a guy we think has a bright future. And he was Gabe’s backup at Z. So he along with a couple others will get every shot to take over that Z position. He’s talented and he also needs to grow up and mature in this offense, and become more consistent this spring,” said Nichol.

Patmon played early as a true freshman last season but his reps tailed off, he finished with only three receptions headed into his second-year sophomore campaign.

“I would have liked to have seen him progress more throughout the season -- he really flashed in fall camp,” said Nichol. “We thought we would have a guy (in 2016) who would really compete – and obviously at times he did. But hopefully all those reps in practice, a few reps in the games, traveling in the hotels, all that stuff will have a beneficial (effect in ‘17).  He’ll be given every  opportunity to compete, b for a starting job or compete to play quite a bit. Again, just  needs to grow up and figure it out,” said Nichol.

What one thing, collectively as a group, will Nichol be stressing this spring and beyond to try and find that consistency within the offense?

“It’s just everything. I’ve got really young (meeting) room other than C.J. Dimry who will be a senior. They’re all really young. And sometimes they don’t know, that they don’t know (laughs). So it’s everything, with most of my room. And they’re all good kids … but they just need to figure it out and quickly. It’s just about being mature in the classroom and the weight room and on the field,” said Nichol.

Nichol will also have someone new to throw into the outside mix this spring.

Easop Winston, he’s going to start off with me on the outside, I’m excited about that. He’s a sure-handed guy, he’s competitive and he’s a really good kid and a smart kid. I think he’ll come in and compete right away. I don’t think he’s scared of challenges,” said Nichol.

Midnight Maneuvers, the two-week winter conditioning session, wrapped up last Friday.  WSU strength coach Jason Loscalzo has said in the past the coaching staff doesn’t want Cougs, new or old, to come into the sessions in tip top shape, that one of the key goals is that when fatigued, still giving maximum effort.  Nichol was pleased with what he saw from Winston’s first go-around.

“We knew going into Maneuvers he’d probably be a little out of shape but I like the way he responded and just from an effort and ‘I’m going to try hard’ way … and that’s all I was looking for. That alone, having a good attitude and being highly competitive, that’s a ton of it,” said Nichol.

The biggest factor in determining how successful the Cougar outside receivers group are this spring and in the 2017 season, Nichol said, will center around mental toughness and attitude.

“I always talk about having a great attitude and having great effort. And I’ve got really good kids. But sometimes when you’re young you can get frustrated, and frustration turns to negativity and we’re just trying to be positive. Because we’re talented enough that if we just play really hard and have a good attitude, we’ll be just fine.  So when you’re talking about consistency, growing up and maturity, those are the issues. If we can tackle those, I think we’ll be just fine,” said Nichol.

Nichol gave an enthusiastic thumbs up to the new Cougar WRs that signed two weeks ago (Anthony White Jr., Jamire Calvin, Davontavean Martin, Winston, Travell Harris).

“I’m very happy with the receiver class we ended up with. You know how it goes -- you’ll never know until a couple years down the road but I think we’re definitely going to be tough at receiver … because of what we do we’re going to be picky and we’re not going to settle. I feel like we got some guys who are talented but also love football and aren’t afraid to compete,” said Nichol. 

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