Friday, April 15, 2011
Spring concludes: Washington State
By Ted Miller
Spring game: Saturday at 6 p.m. ET/3 p.m. PT in Joe Albi Stadium in Spokane, Wash. Admission is free
What happened this spring: The offense dominated the first scrimmage, the defense the second. The general feeling coming out of Pullman was improvement on both sides of the ball. While defensive tackle Toni Pole hurt his knee -- severity unclear -- during the final practice, the Cougars mostly stayed healthy, and that's critical for a team that appears ready to rise out of the conference cellar in 2011. QB Jeff Tuel and receiver Marquess Wilson lead a high-quality passing game, while Rickey Galvin offers some explosiveness at running back. Backup QB Marshall Lobbestael turned in a solid spring -- having an experienced, quality backup is a nice luxury to have.
What's ahead: While every team has optimism coming out of spring practice, Washington State's positive feelings have a firmer foundation than at any time during the Paul Wulff era (in 2008 and 2009, the talent void was even something a layman could see while watching practice). Still, both lines will be questions until they prove themselves. The Cougs must be able to run and stop the run in 2011 if they hope to climb in the highly competitive Pac-12 North. Special teams also are a work in progress. Further, the youngsters who will be asked to contribute next fall need big offseasons in the weight room. Finally, there's a lot of talk about better leadership. The proof of that will be a productive offseason that includes no off-field issues.
Spring stars: The defensive line showed up despite the absences of three key players due to injury: Travis Long, Jordan Pu’u-Robinson and Brandon Rankin. Tackle Anthony Laurenzi stepped up, and JC transfers Steven Hoffart and Ian Knight look like they could contribute at tackle and end, respectively. Linebackers Alex Hoffman-Ellis and Mike Ledgerwood had good springs, while the talented but mercurial C.J. Mizell languished a bit. Galvin and redshirt freshman receiver Kristoff Williams sparked the offense.