SPRING: TEs more physical at point of attack

THE FIRST THING likely to jump out this spring about the Cougar TEs, when the 15-practice session gets underway March 25 -- their collective size. Across the board, they're bigger and stronger. Considerably so. Plus, one tight end who was thought to have exhausted his eligibility this past season is still with the Cougars this spring.

Tight ends coach Rich Rasmussen will have a young, still-developing group this spring. But in addition to it being a smart assemblage (all are excellent students) Rasmussen will have some size to call upon.

Skylar Stormo's offseason work might be the most noticeable of the tight ends. The 6-4 sophomore-to-be is at about 260 pounds these days. Sormo arrived at WSU about a year and a half ago at a listed weight of 227 pounds.

He's not the only one among the tight ends group who has had a productive offseason in the weight room.

Andrei Lintz is around 255-260 pounds, and so is Zach Tatman. Both stand 6-foot-5. Walk-on Elliot Bosch is pushing about 250 pounds over his 6-4 frame -- Bosch might show this spring he's ready to help the Cougs on special teams this year.

Hold up a moment. Tatman? He was listed as a redshirt senior last season, hasn't he exhausted his eligibility?

Doesn't look that way. He's missed the majority of two seasons with injury since his 5-year clock began, and WSU is in the process of a medical appeal to the NCAA. WSU was granted a similar appeal by the NCAA back in May of 2008 for Matt Mullennix, and Tatman is expected to also receive favorable word from the NCAA, but probably not until sometime after spring ball concludes.

THE COUGS WILL, despite losing Tony Thompson to graduation, head into the spring with a couple guys who have game experience. Stormo and Tatman played in 12 and 11 games last year, respectively.

But both have work to do -- each has things to improve on, including reliability and consistent. Stormo had some offsides penalties last year, and sometimes that's part of being a young player. But those kinds of things need to be cleaned up this spring and on into the 2010 season. Tatman needs to become more reliable, particularly in assignment blocking -- a guy who will be assignment perfect ten times out of ten.

THE INCREASE IN size means Washington State this spring should be more physical at the point of attack. And the spring should be particularly valuable for Lintz in that regard.

Lintz has all the physical tools to be successful in the Pac-10. But what's been missing so far is a physical, aggressive football mentality. As a third year sophomore, and as big and athletic as Lintz is, Cougar Nation will be hoping to see him commit to trying to knock the stuffing out of someone. Otherwise those physical tools, the ones he's worked hard to develop, will merely go begging at the Pac-10 level.

THIS SPRING, the Cougs should be able to delve into much more depth on the intricacies of Todd Sturdy's offense, something they haven't been able to do the past two years because of an ungodly number of injuries.

That could translate into more double tight end sets this spring. It will certainly translate into more, and better, physical work at the point of attack from the group.

The Cougs will miss Thompson's route running and receiver skills, and he had very good hands. But Thompson was also a different type of TE at 6-2 and about 235 pounds. For the 2010 season, and beginning this spring, the tight end position should more closely resemble 2008 than 2009 if all unfolds as planned, when the Cougs had Devin Frischknecht and Ben Woodard and a more physical presence at the position.

  • Arriving in the fall will be Aaron Dunn. The Spokane native has all the potential in the world, he has all the tools to develop into a special Pac-10 tight end. But he is on the light side, and playing basketball at Mead his senior year has only helped prolong that. If he is to help the Cougs in his first year, he will have to hit the weights big time between now and fall camp. His 2010 Cougar classmate Jake Rodgers was also a highly rated tight end -- No. 37 on Scout's national list. But Rodgers is 6-foot-7 and has a huge wing span. His frame, foot speed and arm length indicate his future, and best position, might instead be as a Pac-10 left tackle for Wazzu. But he could also get a look at tight end when he gets to Pullman and into the Cougs' fall camp.

  • Four Cougars are slated to miss the spring session as they rehab from injury -- RB James Montgomery, LB Louis Bland, DB Anthony Houston and DT Josh Luapo. Last year there were 24 sidelined.)

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