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Mike Leach has tough love for Dezmon Patmon at spring ball's outset at Washington State; also a cloudy outlook on Kyrin Priester

MIKE LEACH SENT a strong message to Cougar receiver Dezmon Patmon in a conference call with reporters on Wednesday.

The 6-4, 207-pound rising sophomore from San Diego is impressive physically, Leach said, but his effort comes and goes in spurts.

As a true freshman last season, Patmon saw action in four games and caught three passes for 19 yards.

“He kinda works when he wants to … he goes into the tank,” Leach said on the eve of spring practices.

By contrast, he added, fellow sophomore wideout Isaiah Johnson-Mack — who caught 35 passes for 246 yards in 13 games last season — puts forth constant effort and just needs to keep doing what he’s doing to realize steady improvement.

He also praised his 2016 Scout Team Offensive Player of the Year, JC walk on receiver Brandon Arconado. “He plays hard. He’s like the smoothest guy out there … he showed up all the time ...”

There was more receiver talk in the 15-minute media round robin. Leach said senior Kyrin Priester, who was dismissed from the team last season but is back now, will only participate “some” in spring practices because he has a “tall order” to overcome academically to get on the field this fall.

The receiver position in general is one of two most pressing issues on offense entering spring workouts, Leach said. The other is locking down replacements for graduated offensive line starters Eduardo Middleton and Riley Sorenson at right guard and center, respectively.

With Gabe Marks and River Cracraft graduated, his young receivers must elevate their play, Leach said.

“They have to take a step forward,” he emphasized, citing the immortal words of UCLA basketball coaching legend John Wooden that "eager is more important than willing."

“There’s got to be eagerness (to work and improve),” Leach said.

At center, where Sorenson started for the last three seasons, Leach said the leading contender to replace him — sophomore Fred Mauigoa — is “farther down that path than perhaps it looks from the outside.”

Mauigoa saw action in four games last season and, Leach noted, took considerable practice reps with Luke Falk and backup QB Tyler Hilinski. “He’s not operating from a vacuum.”

OTHER LEACH NUGGETS:

On Hilinksi: “He’s very talented and will have an opportunity (this spring).” Leach said the third-year sophomore is assertive and brings a contagious optimism to the field. He also possesses quick feet and the ball comes out of his hand quickly, the coach noted. Asked if he trusts Hilinski’s ability to manage game, Leach was succinct: “Yes.” After a pause, he said, “you’d probably like more of answer — yes, I do (trust him to manage a game).”

On replacing Shalom Luani: “We’re about to find out … it’s going to be a dog fight in the secondary,” he said, noting considerable depth. He didn't offer up any names.

On new DL coach Jeff Phelps: “He’s a very sharp, smart, cerebral guy,” said Leach, who also saluted Phelps’ ability to teach technique and helps players overcome limitations. “I’m very impressed with him. He’s a great fit on our staff … he’ll bring some things to us on the field.”

On offseason Midnight Maneuvers training: “The best effort we’ve had (since arriving at WSU). Individually and team wise, I thought everybody improved in Midnight Maneuvers. That’s the best you can say.”

WE’LL HAVE MORE FROM LEACH LATER.


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