Preview 2007 - Offense
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need to know:
Washington State won’t abandon the run by any means, but this is
an offense that’s traditionally wide-open and run out of
three-wide sets. The engineer of the attack will be fourth-year
starting quarterback Alex Brink, who enters his senior season
with a real nice complement of receivers, led by all-Pac-10
candidates Brandon Gibson and Michael Bumpus. Although the
offensive line welcomes back four players that started games a
year ago, both tackles will be new, a big concern heading into
the season. If they’re overmatched, the ripple effect will
reverberate throughout the entire offense.
Passing: Alex Brink
205-358, 2,891 yds, 24 TD, 13 INT
Rushing: DeMaundray Woolridge
52 carries, 312 yds, 2 TD
62 catches, 1,097 yds, 13 TD
Star of the
Senior QB Alex Brink
Player that has to step up and become a star: Junior LT
Unsung star on the rise: Junior WR Brandon Gibson
Best pro prospect: Gibson
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Brink 2) Gibson 3)
Senior G Bobby Byrd
Strength of the offense: The passing game
Weakness of the offense: Pass protection
Is it possible that Pullman is home to the most underappreciated
quarterback in America? Senior Alex Brink is a three-year
starter on the verge of breaking just about every Cougar passing
record, but he’s still the object of occasional jeers at home
games and criticism in the local media. It could have something
to do with the fact that Wazzu hasn’t been to a bowl game or won
many Pac-10 games while he’s been at the controls. Although
Brink won’t be confused with Drew Bledsoe or Jack Thompson, he
has been very productive as a starter, throwing for more than
7,000 yards and 50 touchdowns, while showing good feet outside
the pocket. Not known for his arm strength, the All-Pac-10
second-teamer is more effective on the intermediate routes and
Projected Top Reserves: Physically, junior Gary
Rogers is the most impressive Cougar quarterback. He’s 6-7
and 235 pounds with a howitzer for an arm. Rogers can throw the
ball a mile, but there’s still no telling how he’ll handle
managing the offense when that time comes. A fixture as Brink’s
backup, he threw his first three touchdown passes in a limited
role last year.
The battle for the No. 3 job will be between sophomores Cole
Morgan and Kevin Lopina. Lopina is an interesting
transfer from Kansas State, who could be challenging Rogers for
the job in 2008. A top recruit in 2005 that can pass and run,
he’s an ideal fit for the Washington State offense.
Watch Out For… Brink to air it out a little more
than in the past. He’ll never be a mad bomber, but he’s gotten
a little bigger and a little stronger, and even without Jason
Hill, his receivers can stretch a secondary.
Strength: Brink. On a Cougar team with a number
of holes, Brink is one of the few constants, a senior that knows
the offense and is prolific enough to keep his team competitive,
even when it shouldn’t be. He even makes the line better by
making quick decisions and not holding the ball longer than he
Weakness: Pass protection. The only thing that
can keep the Cougar passing game from clicking in 2007 is if the
line doesn’t give Brink enough time, something that happened all
too often last season.
Outlook: Everything is lining up for this to be
the best season of Brink’s career. He’s in top shape, the
receivers are good, and the defense will force him throw
lots of passes. If, however, it’s not enough to get Wazzu back
in the post-season, Cougar fans may not notice Brink’s final
Sophomore Dwight Tardy had a swell debut in Pullman last
year, but academic suspensions to a couple of his teammates mean
he’ll need to play an even bigger role in 2007. A 5-11,
212-pound power back with good vision and quickness to the hole,
he led the Cougars with 667 yards rushing and scored five times,
going over 100 yards versus Oregon and Washington. In an
offense built on finesse, Tardy brings a certain toughness and
short yardage attitude that’s usually absent on the Palouse.
Projected Top Reserves: Although his resume
consists of just three carries against Idaho, one of which went
for 80 yards, the coaching staff is very excited about the
future of sophomore Chris Ivory. Cut from the same mold
as Tardy, he’s big and strong with the cutback ability to pop
out of a hole for big chunks of real estate. At 213 pounds,
he’s been timed around 4.4 in the 40, a combination which should
equal lots of reps in a depleted backfield.
The veteran of the unit is senior Kevin McCall, who is no
more than an insurance policy and a special teams ace. In three
seasons with the Cougars, he’s logged just 18 carries, scoring
his only career touchdown in a blowout of Idaho last September.
Watch Out For… junior DeMaundray Woolridge’s
grades. Woolridge couldn’t participate in spring practices, but
is taking classes at a local junior college in the hopes of
regaining his academic eligibility in time for the season.
Although he’s yet to reach signing day expectations, he has been
a key reserve that can prop up the Cougs’ sagging backfield
Strength: North-south power running. Tardy, Ivory
and McCall are all well north of 200 pounds with the lower body
strength to pick up extra yards and fight through arm tackles.
More than in recent years, look for Washington State to attack
opposing defenses between the tackles.
Weakness: Lack of a game-breaker. Could it be
that this year’s backs are too similar to one another? The
straight ahead running styles of Tardy and Ivory have value, but
it would help to also have a complimentary scatback that can
wiggle through defenses and catch a third down screen pass every
Outlook: Although depth is a legitimate concern,
it’s not as if the program is banking on the running attack to
win games in 2007. Tardy and Ivory are about to become the
cornerstones of the ground game for the next three seasons.
Even without star Jason Hill, the Cougar receivers are going to
be very productive again this season. Junior Brandon Gibson
is poised to replace Hill as the deep threat on the outside and
become Alex Brink’s favorite wing man. He emerged as a
playmaker last fall, catching 49 passes for 731 yards and four
touchdowns, and followed that up with a lights out spring.
While no track star, he’s got great hands and makes all of the
tough catches over the middle and above defenders.
In the slot, senior Michael Bumpus is back for one more
season with the program. While he has the speed and athleticism
to play on the outside, coaches would prefer to hit him on short
patterns and watch him make defenders miss. The problem has
been springing him loose for big plays. Bumpus caught a
career-high 60 passes in 2006, but averaged just 9.3 yards a
reception, way below his game-breaking potential.
Filling the slot at split end will be senior Charles Dillon,
who started a pair of games last season, finishing with 15
catches for 119 yards and a touchdown, a dozen of those catches
coming in the final three games when Hill was injured. A JUCO
prodigy at Ventura (Calif.) College, the staff is counting on
him to explode now that he’s been elevated to the starting
Arguably the most versatile of the Cougars, senior Jed
Collins has settled in as the team’s top tight end after
catching 22 passes for 303 yards and three touchdowns in 2006.
Built like a fullback at 6-2 and 250 pounds, he has sure hands
and the power to level smaller defender when he lowers his
shoulder in the open field.
Projected Top Reserves: This year’s second and
third team bring exactly zero catches from last year into the
2007 season, so the reserves have a lot to prove in 2006.
Redshirt freshman Keith Rosenberg will be Bumpus’ backup
in the slot. A former high school running back, he’s very
dangerous after the catch and has the vertical ability to play
much bigger than 5-10. More than any other reserve, Rosenberg
stood out this spring.
Behind Dillon at split end is Benny Ward, a 6-3,
186-pound junior that has really stepped up his overall game
since the end of last season. Relegated to special teams duties
the last two seasons, he’s a terrific downfield blocker and one
of the group’s biggest targets.
Led by junior Ben Woodard, the Cougars expect to be very
deep and talented at tight end. At 6-5 and 250 pounds, he has
ideal size and sure hands, but could struggle to keep his grip
on the No. 2 job when junior college transfer Devin
Frischknecht really digests the offense. A pure
pass-catcher at Snow College, Frischknecht pulled down 54
passes, more than any other tight end in junior college.
Watch Out For… Gibson to evolve into one of the
Pac-10’s most dominant and productive wide receivers. Camped
out on the brink of stardom, he’s a complete receiver that has
the complete confidence of his quarterback.
Strength: The starters. With Gibson and Dillon on
the outside and Bumpus and Collins underneath, Wazzu has a
diverse and experienced mix of athletes that are all capable of
catching at least 35 passes this season.
Weakness: The backups. Other than Rosenberg, who
could be a special slotback, the reserves are woefully
inexperienced, and haven’t shown that they’re ready to step into
the lineup in an emergency.
Outlook: Okay, so we’re not talking USC or Cal
here, but Washington State boasts a dynamic receiving corps
that’s going to light up opposing secondaries and help
keep the Cougars competitive against the better teams.
Although four experienced players return to the offensive line,
Washington State is still concerned about its depth and effectiveness as
a unit. The big news this off-season was the move of senior Bobby
Byrd, the line’s best blocker, from left tackle to left guard, his
original station. A hulking, physical three-year starter, he can
sometimes struggle in space and get beat by the game’s faster edge
rushers. On the inside, however, Byrd will have the experience and 6-7,
315-pound frame to dominate his man across the line of scrimmage.
Byrd’s move creates an opening at left tackle that should be filled by
junior Vaughn Lesuma, a 6-5, 340-pound mystery that sat out the
spring with a wrist injury and has only played two years of organized
football. A JUCO All-American in 2006, he’s very bright and very mature,
but the learning curve could be steep as he prepares to handle some of
the Pac-10’s speed rushers.
Just a sophomore, Kenny Alfred is already appearing on the
Rimington Trophy watch list, which cites some of college football’s best
centers. He’s very athletic, extremely tough at the point of contact,
and only going to better as he plays more football with the Cougars.
On the right side, the line will feature junior tackle Dan Rowlands
at tackle. He can also play guard and center, will be trying his luck on
the outside this season. A part-time starting guard in 2006, he has the
long arms needed to wall off pass rushers, but like Byrd, may be a
better fit in confined spaces.
With Andy Roof suspended, it'll be up to junior Jacob McKinney to
shine at guard. He has moved from fullback to tight end to right guard,
where he hopes to remain for the rest of his college career. Now
up to 295 pounds, he hasn’t lost too much athleticism, but will be
playing catch up after missing spring ball with mono.
Projected Top Reserves: If Lesuma is a disappointment, the
Cougars might turn to redshirt freshman Joe Eppele at left
tackle. He’s just about won the battle against shoulder problems, and
has the quickness and light feet that portend a very bright future with
was on his way to having a breakout season in 2006 before an
ankle injury got in the way. A 6-5, 300-pound road grader,
he had all-Pac-10 potential, but he's off the team for violating
team rules stemming from an drunk driving incident.
On the right side, redshirt freshman Micah Hannam is determined
to show the staff that his future is now, rather than in 2008. A heady,
competitive player, he projects as a mainstay of the line once he adds
more weight to his 6-5 frame.
Behind Alfred at center is redshirt freshman Grady Maxwell. He’s
worked extremely hard in the off-season, getting stronger and trimming
35 pounds in order to land a spot on the two-deep.
Watch Out For… Lesuma’s development at left tackle. As
the protector of Alex Brink’s blindside, how well he does will dictate
the success of the offensive line, and ultimately the passing game in
2007. He was a fortress the last two years, but that was at Snow
College in Utah and Mt. San Jacinto in California. Before that, he was
a rugby player on the island of Fiji. No kidding.
Strength: The interior of the line. If McKinney can
step up, Washington State will boast an interior that should be
the foundation for the offense. Running up the middle shouldn't
be too much of a problem.
Weakness: Tackle. It’s not to say that Lesuma, Rowlands
and others can’t deliver this year, but in a league loaded with good
speed rushers, counting on two tackles that haven’t played the position
at this level is a frightening proposition.
Outlook: If the tackles answer the bell and the first unit
stays healthy for the majority of the year, the Cougar line will be one
of the team’s surprises this year. That’s too many “ifs” for such an
integral component of the offense.