Cougar TEs: Big Expectations

THE TIGHT ENDS are an integral -- and versatile -- piece of the offense Paul Wulff and offensive coordinator Todd Sturdy have brought to Pullman. Position coach Rich Rasmussen doesn't have many concerns with the top three guys on the depth chart: Devin Frischknecht, Ben Woodard and Tony Thompson. But he may also have some surprises in store for the Cougar Faithful.

Washington State sent a tight end to an NFL training camp for the third straight year this past April, with Jed Collins following in the footsteps of Cody Boyd, who followed Troy Bienemann.

Could Frischknecht, the senior starter, make it a foursome? He had a muscle tweak that affected some of the early part of his voluntary summer workout participation but he was back at a full-go toward the end and healthy.

He has good size (6-3, 256), excellent hands and knack for route running. To use the parlance of the game, he can get vertical.

His breakout game in last year's Apple Cup -- two TDs and five catches, including a 41-yard thing of beauty where he blasted through a would-be tackler -- could signal just a preview of things to come. He caught 18 passes last season and has the athletic ability and size to become a major player.

At 6-5, 244, Woodard is the best blocker of the group but as he showed last year against Stanford, he can also catch the difficult pass.

Woodard is also a good old fashioned gamer. He likes to hit, he comes through in the clutch and he's a natural leader.

Meanwhile, Thompson -- formerly the starting long snapper -- looks like a sure bet to work his way onto the field and see action at tight end and H-back.

He's not blessed with towering height (6-2) and he's not the fastest player on the field -- but he's smart, and he's developed his skills to the point he can make an impact on offense.

THE COUGS ARE expected to run a variety of tight end sets if last year's Eastern Washington offense under Wulff and Sturdy is any indication. The Cougar Nation will see motion from that spot, and they'll also see two tight ends on the field at times -- and not just in maximum protection or short-yardage situations.

Wulff is looking to keep defenses off balance, and the tight end position, just like the no-huddle facet, will play a key role in that effort.

AFTER THE TOP THREE, Rasmussen will need to develop some depth, especially in light of the fact Frischknecht and Woodard are seniors.

Adam Coerper, Andrei Lintz, Dan Spitz and Skylar Stormo all arrive in Wazzu's rookie class this year but it's unlikely all will play tight end -- and whether they will redshirt or not is dependant on how ready they show themselves to be when camp opens Aug. 5.

The Cougs could still eventually decide to line up Spitz or Stormo at defensive end but both will almost certainly begin their careers at the tight end spot. Lintz also looks set at the tight end position, while Coerper looks destined for d-end.

But Lintz will likely be sidelined at fall camp's outset after breaking an ankle bone and tearing ligaments in a high school all-star game. His rehab time was estimated by family doctors at two months. If that holds true, it would first place him on the WSU practice field around the time of the Cougs' season opener and could augur for a redshirt.

Tyson Pencer, who has already enrolled and completed his first college classes, is listed as a tight end on the official roster but he has since grown to 6-7 and 274 pounds -- his ultimate destination might be on the offensive line.

Aaron Gehring (6-5, 237) could also factor into the '08 mix. A walk-on, Gehring is a third-year sophomore. (Former Cougar walk-on Mikel Overgaard (6-5, 235) has left the program. )

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