Slash Collins is turning heads again -- at TE

PULLMAN – Palouse partisans borrowed the old Kordell Stewart nickname "Slash" two years ago and bestowed it upon multi-dimensional true freshman Jed Collins after he took the wood to Idaho playing linebacker, fullback and special teams. Today, the junior-to-be from Mission Viejo is playing still another position – tight end – and turning heads again. With Cody Boyd and Jesse Taylor on the sidelines this spring with injuries, his emergence is a welcome development.

The 6-2, 250-pound Collins made a number of nice plays in the Cougars' first scrimmage of the spring Saturday, including a 12-yard, shoe-string catch that was the offensive play of the day.

"He's a guy were going to take a serious look at," says WSU tight ends coach Greg Peterson. "He's a football player – tough and physical. You can win a lot of football games with players him. Jed can line up at tight end or fullback. He's a physical lead blocker and he can catch it. What he allows us to do is be more versatile."

As Collins' freshman season of 2004 progressed, offensive coordinator Mike Levenseller won the tug-o-war with defensive coordinator Robb Akey and Collins shed the linebacking duties. He played fullback last season but saw limited action with WSU's rare use of two-back sets. He saw action in 11 games, mostly on special teams and occasionally as a blocker for Jerome Harrison. He rushed once for one yard and caught three balls for 30 yards.

Both Peterson and head coach Bill Doba say Collins' move to tight end, along with another fullback, Jacob McKinney, doesn't mean the Cougars are scrapping use of two-back sets.

One thing is certain, though: While the Cougars are shy on tight end experience while Boyd (28 games under his belt the last three seasons) and Taylor (29 games) are shelved, there is no shortage of talent at the position.

Sophomore Ben Woodard (6-5, 237), a former Mormon missionary, turned in a stellar winter conditioning effort and is "off to an impressive start" this spring, Peterson said. "He's a big, good looking young man." Woodard, sidelined all of 2004 with a knee injury, caught his first career pass in last year's Apple Cup.

JC transfer Jason Price (6-4, 245) brings athleticism and a good attitude to the position, Peterson said. He enrolled at WSU in January after two seasons at Trinity Valley College, one of the best junior college football programs in the nation.

Also in the mix are second-year freshman Tony Thompson (6-2, 235), third-year sophomore Bryan Baird (6-3, 235) and McKinney (6-3, 262).

The return of Boyd, who is recovering from foot surgery, is slated for mid-June. He was one of the state of Washington's mostly highly sought prospects coming out of Ferndale High in 2002. Aside from his heroic work in last November's Apple Cup, a string of injuries have hampered what many believe is NFL-caliber talent. "Anytime you have a player of his size (6-8, 257) and ability off the football field, you have to do everything possible just to get them healthy. And that's our goal this spring," Peterson said.

Boyd, although laden with a cumbersome brace on the injured foot, has nonetheless stretched and participated in some very basic drills with his fellow tight ends every practice this spring.


* Thompson is pulling double duty as a tight end and WSU's No. 1 longsnapper. He's taken the majority of snaps so far this spring, though defensive end Mkristo Bruce doesn't plan to let Thompson have the job without a fight. "I am a mean longsnapper," Bruce said. "I can challenge people at that position, if I get a chance to practice, I can get good."

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