Cougar spring preview: Position fights on O

COMPARED TO THE DEFENSE, where several big holes need to be plugged, the to-do list on offense for Washington State this spring season appears fairly modest. Finding an answer at right tackle, where Charles Harris served so ably the last two seasons, figures to be job No. 1 for offensive coordinator Mike Levenseller when workouts start late this week.

Harris and left guard Sean O'Connor are both gone this season. That puts the immediate spotlight on junior Derek Hunter and JC transfer Vaughn Lesuma, who will vie for Harris's spot, and on Andy Roof and Dan Rowlands.

The outlook is a bit complicated, though, because a wrist injury will preclude Lesuma from partaking in contact drills this spring.

Roof was the starting guard opposite O'Connor coming into last season but battled hand and ankle injuries, giving Rowlands a chance to turn heads with his toughness. Barring something unforeseen, they will be the two starting guards in 2007.

Hunter saw action at tackle last season when Bobby Byrd was nursing a strained knee. He figures to get a serious challenge this spring from Lesuma, a 6-5, 340-pound second-team JC All-American performer out of Mt. San Jacinto College.

Expect junior Jacob McKinney and second-year freshmen Micah Hannam, and Joe Eppele to make runs for playing time as well. Grady Maxwell is still nursing a knee that shelved him last season.

At receiver, the Cougs lose record-setting Jason Hill to the NFL, but offensive coordinator Mike Levenseller is sky high on the highly athletic trio of Michael Bumpus, Brandon Gibson and Charles Dillon. The real question this spring is finding out who will back them up.

There will be no shortage of contenders, with more talent joining the ranks in the fall when prep speedsters Jeshua Anderson and Daniel Blackledge arrive and one-time safety Michael Willis, out this spring following shoulder surgery, is back in action. Looking to make a mark in the open spaces this spring will be senior Finas Rabb, juniors Benny Ward and Scott Selby, sophomore Greg Walker and second-year freshmen Anthony Houston and Keith Rosenberg. None has caught a ball in a Pac-10 game. However, word around Pullman this spring is Houston's showing the potential to be something special over the course of his Cougar career.

Cody Boyd is gone at tight end, but Jed Collins, who caught 22 passes for 306 yards and three TDs last year, is back and will be the undisputed starter for 2007. Behind him is a load of talent, though mostly inexperienced. Fourth-year junior Ben Woodard of Cheney and third-year sophomore Tony Thompson of Seattle will enter spring workouts locked at No. 2 on the depth chart, with JC transfer Devin Frischknecht, a January enrollee who last season caught 54 passes for 763 yards and nine touchdowns at Snow College, hot on their heels. Second-year freshman Trevor Mooney, now checking in at around 250 pounds, was a scout team standout last season and has the potential to see the field in 2007.

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