NCF Nation: Rickey Galvin

Two weeks from today, Washington State officially opens the Mike Leach era on national television at his alma mater -- BYU.

Rickey Galvin is pretty sure he'll be on the field. He's just not exactly sure where.

"As of now, I really don't know," Galvin said with a laugh. "But I can say that wherever coach Leach needs me, I'm willing to play there at that position. Whatever it is, I'm willing to do it. Whether that means going in the slot and spreading the defense out or working from the backfield, I'll do it. He knows what he's doing. He knows we have a game soon. So we'll just wait and see."

[+] EnlargeWashington State's Rickey Galvin
Steven Bisig/US PRESSWIREWashington State running back Rickey Galvin rushed for 602 yards last season.
After being WSU's primary running back last season, where he totaled 602 yards on 114 carries with five touchdowns, Galvin's role is probably changing.

In an effort to squeeze all of the talent out of his 5-8, 176-pound frame while also bolstering an already solid receiving corps, Galvin has been spending time as a slot receiver. It's a completely different approach and mentality to the game. One that Galvin is still getting the hang of.

"I feel like I'm getting there," he said. "It's a lot to learn going to the slot. I was used to catching balls from backfield, now I'm in the flat. Learning to read the defense is completely different. There is a lot more that goes into it."

But Galvin can catch. So that's a start. Last season he hauled in 28 balls for 242 yards and a touchdown. Whatever success Leach has in his first year in Pullman, there's a good chance Galvin will play a big part in it.

And considering the way Galvin's career started, any contribution is a positive. In the first game of the 2010 season, on his first collegiate carry, he gained 2 yards against Oklahoma State. But those yards cost him, because he also broke his arm on the play.

He had been in on some special teams already, and remembers the thrill of hearing his name called on the sidelines to get in.

"It was like a dream," Galvin said. "It all happened so fast, it was crazy. I was nervous because it was going to be my first carry. I got the ball and had to make the decision to cut it up field. I was really off balance. I put my arm down in an awkward position. All of my body weight landed on my arm and it just snapped. I knew something was wrong right away so I just ran to the sideline."

And that's where he'd stay for the remainder of what turned out to be a redshirt season. But he rebounded with solid numbers in 2011. And now he finds himself on the ground floor of a new era for Cougar football.

"Everybody is on the same page in the locker room," he said. We're ready to make a turnaround and not just be a punching bag anymore. It's easy to say these things, but we need to go out and do the work. And I can see the changes in practice. We know what we have to get done and we're working to make those changes."

Change is something he'll have to get used to. But so far, he likes it.

"If I get the ball in space, I feel like I'm gone," he said. "There are a lot of people in the backfield you have to avoid. But when you get the ball [in the flat] and with some space, it's one-on-one because our wide receivers do a great job blocking. When you get that chance, anything can happen."
Every team needs to hit every position group each recruiting season, but there are always priorities. It's not just positions where starters are lost or going to be seniors, it's about addressing weaknesses where a true freshman might be a better answer than a returning player.

Up next is the North Division.

California
QB
: Zach Maynard will be a senior, and it says something about the depth behind him that he never lost his job during his midseason swoon.
WR: Keenan Allen is back, but that's it in terms of returning production and experience.
S: Three of the top four safeties from 2011 are gone.

Oregon
Skill:
In Chip Kelly's offense, you can never have enough fast guys. Sure, Kenjon Barner, De'Anthony Thomas and Josh Huff are back, but there's a lot of youth and uncertainty after that at running back and wide receiver.
TE: His name is David Paulson, but he's gone. Colt Lyerla was a productive backup -- at least in terms of finding the end zone -- but after him things are uncertain. Tight end is one of the most underrated positions in the Ducks offense, so having more than one Kelly trusts is significant.
S: Eddie Pleasant is gone and John Boyett is a senior. Avery Patterson, Erick Dargan and Brian Jackson are next in line, but the young talent isn't as certain as it is at corner.

Oregon State
OL:
Oregon State lost three starters from a line that led the worst rushing attack in the conference and surrendered 27 sacks. Quarterback Sean Mannion has potential, but he needs time. And a running game.
DT: The Beavers had the worst rushing defense in the Pac-12 in 2011. 'Nuff said.
LB: The Beavers had the worst rushing defense in the Pac-12 in 2011. Almost enough said. Cameron Collins is gone, and all the contributors on the two-deep will be seniors, other than junior Michael Doctor.

Stanford
WR
: Perhaps the weakest position for the Cardinal in 2011, this need is augmented by the loss of Griff Whalen and Chris Owusu and the lack of up-and-comers other than sophomore Ty Montgomery.
DB: Three of four starters are gone, including both safeties. In the Cardinal's two losses -- to Oregon and Oklahoma State -- an absence of top-end athleticism in the back half was exploited.
OL: Three starters are back, but the losses are huge: Tackle Jonathan Martin and guard David DeCastro. And backup tackle Tyler Mabry and backup guard Matt Bentler also are gone. If coach David Shaw intends to remain a physical, downhill running team -- and he does -- he'll need to continuously stock up on linemen who can get the job done.

Washington
DB:
Lots of guys are back in the secondary, but the Huskies gave up 284.6 yards passing per game, which ranked 11th in the Pac-12. They couldn't cover anybody and often seemed out of position. So new blood might help.
DL: (See if you can notice a theme here that ignores questions at wide receiver and running back). Two starters are gone from a line that consistently underperformed based on preseason expectations.
LB: Second-team All-Pac-12 middle linebacker Cort Dennison is the only one of the eight men on the depth chart who won't be back, but he was the team's only consistent linebacker.

Washington State
DL:
Three of four starters are back, but all three will be seniors.
OL: Three starters are back, but to make the next step on offense, the Cougars need to run the ball better. They ranked 10th in the conference in rushing offense. And that might reduce a conference-high 3.3 sacks per game. Mike Leach's quick-hit offense also might help.
RB: 170-pound sophomore Rickey Galvin is back, as is senior Carl Winston, but the backs need to share responsibility for a 3.1-yards-per-carry average, worst in the conference (of course, losing 237 yards to sacks doesn't help).
Every season true freshman make an impact and underclassmen become stars. Who might those guys be in the Pac-12 in 2011?

(Note: With "underclassmen to watch," we mostly stayed away from guys who made a significant impact in 2010, such as Arizona State defensive end Junior Onyeali, Colorado receiver Paul Richardson or California receiver Keenan Allen).

Underclassmen to watch

[+] EnlargeJonathan McKnight
Jason O. Watson/US PresswireArizona cornerback Jonathan McKnight has a bright future.
Jonathan McKnight, CB, So, Arizona: McKnight, younger brother of former USC running back Joe McKnight, might already be the best cover guy in an already good secondary.

Davon Coleman, DE, So, Arizona State: The junior college transfer -- a late signing for the 2011 recruiting class -- might already be the Sun Devils' No. 3 defensive end, and ASU needs him to step up after returning starter James Brooks quit the team.

David Wilkerson, OLB, RFr., California: While fellow outside linebacker Cecil Whiteside might be more heralded, Wilkerson was listed as a starter on on the post-spring depth chart.

Parker Orms, CB, So., Colorado: Orms was the starting nickel back in 2010 before he blew out his knee on the third play of the season-opener against Colorado State. He's now No. 1 at cornerback -- the Buffs more worrisome position -- despite sitting out spring practices.

Scott Crichton, DE, RFr., Oregon State: The Beavers have major questions at defensive end -- a traditionally strong position for their defense. While he didn't come from nowhere, it was a bit of a surprise to see Crichton atop the depth chart after spring practices.

Dietrich Riley, So, SS, UCLA: By the end of the season Riley and Tony Dye might be widely viewed as the best safety combo in the conference. Heck, they might already be.

Dres Anderson, RFr, WR, Utah: Anderson already looks like the Utes' No. 2 option after junior DeVonte Christopher.

Josh Shirley, RFr., LB, Washington: Shirley was such a force as a pass-rusher this past spring, they created a position for him: "Rush" linebacker.

Rickey Galvin, RFr, RB, Washington State: Galvin broke his arm at Oklahoma State on the first play of his college career, which ended his debut season. He's speedy and shifty and the Cougars really need him to provide a running threat to help out quarterback Jeff Tuel.

Impact freshmen

Hank Hobson, LB, Arizona: The Wildcats have major depth issues at linebacker. Hobson looks like the most ready-made guy in the incoming class. He might not start, but he's a good bet to be the No. 4 guy behind the starting three.

Stefan McClure, CB, California: While many Cal fans are more eager to see 325-pound nose tackle Viliami Moala, the Bears have depth issues at cornerback, and McClure is almost certain to be in the mix.

Colt Lyerla, TE, Oregon: While Oregon needs help at receiver, and at least one one of the incoming guys is almost certain to climb into a prime spot in the rotation, we don't know who that will be. We feel pretty good projecting Lyerla as the Ducks' No. 2 tight end behind David Paulson.

James Vaughters, ILB, Stanford: The word most often used to describe Vaughters? "Beast." Stanford is solid at linebacker, but this guy is going to play, and and might well end up suggesting a second-coming of Vontaze Burfict by season's end.

George Farmer, WR, USC: There might be somebody who doesn't believe Farmer is a budding star but I have yet to speak with him. Even USC super-soph Robert Woods talks about Farmer's freakish skills.

Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington: Seferian-Jenkins showed this past spring that he's ready for prime time. He's likely to be the Huskies' starting tight end. A runner-up for the Huskies, by the way, is receiver Kasen Williams, but he will join a deep, veteran crew of receivers.

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