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Why Tyler Hilinski’s emergence this spring at quarterback is so significant

SOMETHING HAS CLICKED for Cougar quarterback Tyler Hilinski this spring. And it means Washington State’s quarterback stable has moved to a different level than it had been before spring ball started.

Luke Falk is the WSU’s starter and its best quarterback. 

But if heaven forbid, disaster were to strike and Falk were lost for any appreciable amount of time, Tyler Hilinski has improved to a level this spring that WSU could count on him on Saturdays to put the Cougs on his back and win games.

That wasn’t the case last year. 

Hilinski was a capable backup this past season. And he may have been on the winning side if he were forced into action in 2016 -- but you might have wanted to see him manage, and not "lose" the game, by trying to do too much.

Hilinski this spring, though, has consistently been showing he's now capable of taking a game over.

The chief difference between then and now?  Hilinski’s decision making.

Mike Leach famously installed his entire Air Raid offense in just three practices after arriving to Washington State. It takes quite a bit longer for a quarterback to gain command over the subtleties and nuances, to go beyond just showing flashes.

Hilinski is no longer trying to fit passes into too-tight windows or tries to make something happen that isn’t there (though he still takes the occasional gamble).  He's shortened up his throwing motion, leading to better accuracy.

His comfort level with the receiving corps, and knowing where each receiver is going to be and when based on the receiver’s read, have both increased significantly. When pressure gets too close, he's making throws on the move he didn't make last year.

And with Hilinski having turned a corner this spring, that can only help spur on Falk, as competitive a QB as you'll find, to improve even further himself.

WSU already had one of the best quarterback combos in the Pac-12 headed into the spring. Jon Wilner of the Mercury News ranked the Cougs No. 2 behind Washington on his QB “comfort” list -- meaning a dependable backup behind an (at least) solid starter.

But based on what Hilinski has done this spring, having elevated himself into an arguable 1-A type, WSU might actually now be on top of that list.

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