THE QUESTIONS for Washington State on offense in 2008 revolve around replacing the most statistically prolific quarterback in the history of the program, two-thirds of the receiving corps plus one of the best crimson tight ends in recent memory. The Cougs will, however, return four starters up front -- and everything on a successful offense starts with the hosses on the line.

If you're solid on the o-line, you can do some things in terms of scheme you can't do when it's a young, inexperienced group. But the main priority for the '08 Cougs will be to find their guy at quarterback.

Returning starter: None
Starters graduating: Alex Brink
Ready to emerge?: Gary Rogers, Marshall Lobbestael, Kevin Lopina, Cole Morgan, J.T. Levenseller

Last season, Washington State had the Pac-10's No. 1 passing offense in '07, but also averaged 25.67 points a game. Alex Brink is now gone. His stats were dazzling, but detractors will argue the Cougs did not go bowling while he was the starter, and many fans blame the quarterback for team losses. Senior-to-be Gary Rogers is the heir apparent -- a 6-6 strong-armed prototype. He has all the physical tools, but little experience.

Rogers has been either white hot or frosty cold in limited career playing time (24-of-52, 244 yards, 3TDs, 3INTs) and as it is for all quarterbacks, his confidence level will play a huge role in his success this coming season.

At the same time, starting jobs across the board will be up for grabs with a new staff coming in, and Kevin Lopina, Marshall Lobbestael and Cole Morgan are all expected to compete for the job in spring ball and possibly into fall camp. Lopina and Morgan will be juniors, Lobbestael a redshirt freshman. J.T. Levenseller, a dual threat QB, will also enroll at WSU in January.

Returning starters: Kenny Alfred, Micah Hannam, Dan Rowlands, Vaughn Lesuma
Starters graduating: Bobby Byrd
Ready to emerge?: Steven Ayers, Joe Eppele, Kevin Freitag, Reed Lesuma, Grady Maxwell, Andrew Roxas

Protecting the Cougar QB will be four of five starters from last season. LT Vaughn Lesuma, C Kenny Alfred, RG Dan Rowlands and RT Micah Hannam all return with lynchpin Alfred again expected to be an honors candidate in '08. The group allowed the third fewest sacks in the league but some of that credit also must go to Brink, and run blocking must also improve. Nevertheless, another offseason under strength coach Rob Oviatt plus the quartet's continued maturation should have Cougar fans excited about the returning talent up front.

George Yarno's system is such that players are well schooled in every position. Among those expected to compete to in effect fill Bobby Byrd's spot is Andrew Roxas, who did yeoman's work starting as a true frosh for an injured Alfred against UCLA. Steven Ayers, Joe Eppele, Kevin Freitag, Reed Lesuma and Grady Maxwell are also in the mix, with most of the buzz this past season centering around the first four.

Returning starters: Dwight Tardy, Chris Ivory
Starters graduating/key losses: Kevin McCall
Ready to emerge?: Marcus Richmond, Logwone Mitz, Skylar Jessen

The emergence of running back Chris Ivory in the season's latter stages, and his ability to hold onto the pigskin against the UW, bodes well for the future running game. Ivory has star quality, but he will indeed need to show consistency in the area of ball security. He's a good blocker, but he can also be a great one. Still, don't forget about Dwight Tardy, either.

Tardy, the starter until tearing his ACL, had surgery in mid-November and the procedure went swimmingly. He'll miss the spring, and his return timetable won't be known until he clears rehab benchmarks down the road. For Tardy's particular injury, the standard rehab time is 6-9 months. The outer edges of that range at nine months would coincide just about with the start of fall camp.

Marcus Richmond has looked good running the ball but will need to improve his blocking to increase his playing time, and Logwone Mitz also will bear keeping an eye on. Skylar Jessen's Cougar career has been thus far stymied due to injury.

Returning starters: Brandon Gibson (?)
Starters graduating: Michael Bumpus, Charles Dillon
Ready to emerge?: Jeshua Anderson, Daniel Blackledge, Keith Rosenberg, Benny Ward.

Sure handed Michael Bumpus, a fantastic receiver who because he operated in the slot didn't get the same touchdown and yardage totals as a Cougar flanker or split end, is a big loss. It seems a distant memory now but Cougar fans were up in arms about the number of drops by Wazzu receivers before the emergence of Bumpus.

Starter Charles Dillon will also be missed, as will his blocking, and Brandon Gibson is going to petition the NFL for his likely draft position. Trying to read the minds of NFL brass is a fool's quest but the early guess here is Gibson would likely be projected the same as Jason Hill was as a junior -- as a fourth round choice. In other words, perhaps not high enough to warrant coming out early.

Still, the Cougs could potentially be replacing their entire starting receiver corps from '07. Receiver was the Cougs' deepest position last season, so who are some of the names Cougar fans should look for next year? Jeshua Anderson has star quality but he will also be trying out soon for the Olympic team in the hurdles and could end up taking a redshirt year. Benny Ward is a gifted athlete and had earned turns last season in some of Mike Levenseller's packages and also during crunch time.

Daniel Blackledge and Keith Rosenberg have loads of potential, while Anthony Houston and Cornorris Atkins could also make a charge up the chart.

Returning starter: None
Starters graduating: Jed Collins
Ready to emerge?: Devin Frischknecht, Tony Thompson, Jed Collins

All-everything tight end Jed Collins will also be among the starters lost to graduation. Devin Frischknecht has has receiver skills in a tight end's body and his two touchdown performance in the Apple Cup, along with Ben Woodard and improving Tony Thompson (did you catch Thompson's block on Ivory's Apple Cup touchdown run?) will help lessen the loss of Collins. Still, the senior isn't someone easily replaced.

The bottom line at tight end is that depth and experience is untested, the same holds true at other positions on offense and defense. But for followers of Cougar Football -- and that includes the string of 10-win seasons from 2001-03 -- this is also nothing new.

There are a lot of ifs shaping up for the 2008 offense and sometimes that spells inconsistency. But there were also a lot of ifs prior to the 10-win seasons of 2001 and 2003, too. There's also the new coaching staff "bounce" factor for the Cougs in '08. Teams under a new coach can sometimes take off that first season, look at what a pair of former Washington State coaches did at UTEP and ASU in their first year.

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