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For Falk, it’s about timing and getting in full sync with receiving targets this spring

FOR AN internal combustion engine to work at peak efficiency, the camshaft has to be correctly synchronized to the movement of the crankshaft through the timing belt. The same could be said of Cougar fifth-year senior quarterback Luke Falk and his receiving targets this spring out at Washington State.

Gone are wideouts Gabe Marks and River Cracraft.  And yet the argument can be made WSU will be faster and more athletic at receiver. That doesn’t necessarily mean better – replacing two of the most prolific receivers in the history of the program will be quite the challenge. 

But from a WR talent standpoint, and in combination with Falk, the view from this chair is WSU’s passing attack can be very, very good in 2017.

There were times in the final three games after Cracraft was lost last season that inside receiver Kyle Sweet, for example, was open in the pattern. But he was open at different times than Cracraft, and the connection wasn’t always made.  For Falk (6-4, 218) and his receivers this spring,  it’s about attaining that same familiarity that Cougar QB had with Marks and Cracraft, where both passer and receiver can predict each other’s moves.

It’s not like they’re starting from scratch. Tavares Martin was WSU’s second-leading receiver last season with 64 catches. Isaiah Johnson-Mack had 35 grabs, Robert Lewis had 33, Sweet had 27 and C.J. Dimry had 12. 

But in addition to strengthening his rapport with the above wideouts, Falk this spring will also need to build chemistry with inside receivers Renard Bell, Kyrin Priester plus outside WRs Dezmon Patmon, Easop Winston plus Grant Porter and others.

Because of the large number of wideouts getting more work with Falk, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the offense start slow this spring before kicking into high gear (that’s not to imply that Mike Leach would be accepting of a slow start).

One thing, however, that should be clicking from the very start this spring: Falk and the running backs in the passing game.

Everyone is back and Jamal Morrow and James Williams were tied for the fourth-most catches on the squad last year (48) while Gerard Wicks had 29 grabs.  Don’t be surprised if the running backs take an extended turn on center stage this spring.

Meanwhile, a secondary QB storyline will be playing out behind Falk.  Tyler Hilinski (6-3, 206) comes in established as the No. 2 quarterback. But Leach makes it a point of having every day to earn your job and the third-year sophomore will be expected to build on last year.  Hilinski has been more of a gambler and will try to fit balls into tighter windows, so it will be worth watching this spring to see if he makes as many high-risk/high-reward throws as he did last year in Thursday Night Football.

Would Leach give Hilinski more reps with the first unit this spring since he knows what he has in Falk?  Doubtful. Even if there wasn’t that need to get in sync with a large number of receivers, that’s just not Leach’s style. He’d rather focus on his No. 1 QB and first-string offense and reaching new heights.

Behind Hilinski, and looking to challenge him for the No. 2 job, is Anthony Gordon. He’s also a third-year sophomore and the question with him is how comfortable and productive he can be now having gone through a year in Mike Leach’s offense.  Walk on Trey Tinsley along with Gordon also had his moments in TNF last season, with second-year freshman walk on Casey Brink on the spring roster as well.

RELATED: All eyes on Priester this spring in previewing WRs


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