Good read on the end of spring ball, and things to contemplate heading into the summer:
Spring Rewind: Bright spots and question marks
PULLMAN–There were plenty of question marks headed into the spring for Washington State. Two tackles and a cornerback needed to be found. What would a running attack with but one scholarship tailback available going to look like? And that’s just for starters. Many questions were answered this spring, and some sharp play by the offensive line along with a few jaw dropping runs authored by “The Ghost”, gave the Cougar Nation reason to believe this season.
Jerome Harrison (5-9.5, 208-pound) had them jumping up and down out on the Palouse this spring, ripping off 302 yards and 7 TDs on 37 touches — over 8 yards a carry. But it was the way he got those yards that was cause for celebration.The Ghost — a nickname given to him by coach Ken Greene and his teammates — turned in so many highlight reel runs it became customary to expect at least one a day.Proven depth behind the senior, however, is cause for concern. Starting fullback Jed Collins (6-1, 245, So.) saw extended time at backup TB to rest Harrison and try his hand at that spot if needed in certain situations. The incoming freshman RBs will have ample opportunity to earn significant PT behind Harrison this fall.Just as big a story as Harrison — the offensive line. Usually, the o-line will lag behind the defensive line during a camp, but the 2005 Cougar steakeaters were firing on all cylinders by Week Two.Center Nick Mihlhauser and sophomore left tackle Bobby Byrd anchor a new unit that made a near seamless transition. RG Norvell Holmes (6-2, 300, Sr.), LG Sean O’Connor (6-5, 279, Jr.) and RT Charles Harris (6-6, 311, Jr.), all solidified themselves as starting members.Along with the future — Andy Roof (6-3, 315, Fr), Eddie Vickers (6-3, 330, Fr.) and Dan Rowlands (6-4, 285, Fr.) — Riley Fitt-Chappell (6-7, 320, Sr.), provides depth at guard or tackle, with Fitt-Chappell a solid game day performer over the course of his career at all three positions.Center Josh Duin (6-2, 307, Jr.) had a solid camp, lending coach George Yarno confidence he can ably back up Mihlhauser — a contender for all Pac-10 honors.Currently, WSU has two potential starters at quarterback in Josh Swogger and Alex Brink, with Swogger the starter headed into fall. Brink showed more consistency this spring. In drills, Swogger looked to have the accuracy, strength and quick release that won him the starting job as a sophomore headed into 2004.This spring also saw an increase in the maturity of redshirt freshman Gary Rogers.
THE TE POSITION is one worth bragging about. Troy Bienemann (6-5, 255, Sr.), Cody Boyd (6-8, 255, Jr.) and Jesse Taylor (6-3, 240, Jr.) consistently exploited the middle — and Bienemann could be on the verge of something very big this year.The receivers spread out the defense with Jason Hill (6-0, 198, Jr.) shining brightly before pulling a hamstring towards spring’s end. With Chris Jordan sitting out, Greg Prator (6-0, 210, Sr.) saw more live reps, and no two receivers were as sure handed as Michael Bumpus (5-11, 185, So.) and Marty Martin (5-10, 186, Sr.)Coach Mike Levenseller diligently worked with Benny Ward (6-4, 184, Fr.) this spring — the lad providing plenty of reasons to be excited about his future at WSU.AS FOR THE Cougar defense, the only thing decided at cornerback this spring was that WSU has a lot to chose from. Wally Dada (5-11, 194, Sr.) and Tyron Brackenridge (5-11, 185, Sr.) are the leading contenders to start at left corner. Don Turner (6-0, 187, Jr.) and Ian Bell are also in the mix. Alex Teems (5-11, 184, Sr.) is the established starter at RCB.The CB who best shows the ability to hit and wrap up could determine which of the four gets the start. There’s also a possibility Dada will move from corner to safety, where he spent the latter stages of the spring.Safety Eric Frampton (5-11, 205, Jr.) emerged this spring as the anchor of the Cougar secondary.
THE STARTERS on the d-line, Adam Braidwood, Aaron Johnson, Ropati Pitoitua and Mkristo Bruce, were never in question. The rotation was, as this year there find quality depth on the defensive line not present in seasons past.Odell Howard established himself as the first option off the bench at tackle. At end, Adam West, Matt Mullennix, Jason Roberts, Reyshawn Bobo and Paul Stevens all had their moments.
LINEBACKER IS BLESSED with starting talent — and paper thin at experienced depth. Its another position doubly important for the Cougs to stay healthy. Coach Leon Burtnett expects the five incoming freshmen to be ready to play while Doba pointed out the LB’s don’t rotate like other positions — Unless there’s an injury, expect Will Derting (6-0, 228, Sr.), Steve Dildine (6-1, 226, Jr.) and Scott Davis (5-11, 230, Jr.) to be on the field.Chris Baltzer (6-0, 225, Jr.) had a good spring, with Doba saying his pass coverage is as good as any linebacker’s on the roster.
THE KICKING GAME has not been straightened out, and remains one of the biggest concerns headed into the summer workouts.With a number of misses from short range, kickers Graham Siderius (6-1, 212, Sr.) and Loren Langley (5-7, 150, So.) will both need to work on their consistency this summer.