Cougar quarterbacks preview

COUGAR STARTING QB Gary Rogers and No. 2 man Kevin Lopina have fallen in love with the new high tempo, no huddle offense that Paul Wulff and o-coordinator Todd Sturdy have brought to Pullman. But both are also short of one precious commodity. With the start of fall camp just over two weeks away, CF.C takes a look inside the quarterback position.

Rogers came into spring ball with the question of the Cougs' starter left unsettled under new first year head man Wulff. Fifteen practice days later, Rogers left the practice field firmly ensconced as the No. 1 guy.

Lopina also had a very good spring, said Wulff, and he's expected to challenge Rogers in fall camp.

Lopina is used to making plays with his feet having run the option in high school -- he's a very mobile quarterback. But Rogers has surprising foot speed for his size, and he'll at times frustrate defenses when he chooses to take off for the sticks.

Rogers has certainly benefitted from the extra practice with the receivers over the offseason, looking comfortable and on target. The consistency isn't completely there yet, as evidenced by last week's skelly against Idaho where Rogers, as well as Lopina, alternated between hot and cold. But they also have all of fall camp to find the zone.

And there's obvious chemistry evident between Rogers and his receivers, particularly Brandon Gibson and Daniel Blackledge.

After Rogers and Lopina, who have clearly separated themselves headed into the fall, Marshall Lobbestael is versatile and continues to improve. The redshirt freshman has been putting in plenty of extra time after the voluntary workouts end, soaking up the pointers given him by Rogers.

J.T. Levenseller has showed off a strong arm in the offseason. Fleet-footed and mentally tough, he, like Lobbestael, led his prep team to a state championship.

Walk-on Dan Wagner, a quarterback in high school, remains listed at the QB position though the lefty's primary role at WSU is competing for the punting job held by Reid Forrest.

Former QB Cole Morgan left for Western in search of playing time and Calvin Schmidtke was released from his LOI this spring following off field troubles. Morgan was behind on the depth chart and there were questions surrounding Schmidtke's height and ability to play in the Pac-10 but it's still two less bodies in the Cougs' QB stable.

THE BIGGEST QUESTION facing the WSU quarterbacks is the lack of game experience.

Alex Brink held a lock on the starting job for the last 3 1/2 years and meaningful playing time for Rogers was sparse while Lopina a decent part of last year was dinged up.

In their favor, they have a deep receivers corps and an offensive line that returns four starters, though that unit was slow this spring to grasp the schemes of new line coach Harold Etheridge.

Wulff has said there are potential battles at a number of spots on the team heading into fall camp but quarterback probably doesn't figure to be one of the them given Rogers' performance in the spring.

At the same time, Lopina this spring certainly proved his mettle and increased his standing with the coaches. And with a new staff, a new offense and a program where everyone is getting a fresh start, the Cougs look to have two very good options at quarterback.

NOTABLE NOTE:
Many of the incoming class arrived in Pullman earlier this summer but rookies formally report on Aug. 3, the veterans a day later on Aug. 4 with the firstpractice of fall camp slated for Aug. 5. The NCAA mandates a player's first three practice sessions be padless, so expect to first hear the crack of pads and helmets echoing across the Palouse on Aug. 8. The season opener is Aug. 30 in Seattle's Qwest Field against Oklahoma State.


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