This is a grade largely based on the fact this group is exceeding expectations. Before the season, it was Jeshua Anderson and a group of unproven, young wideouts. Now it's some great young receivers, and no Anderson - and the Cougar passing game looks like it may actually be able to reclaim some of its lost glory. The passing game has been largely carrying a struggling Cougar offense; accounting for both Washington State offensive touchdowns against SMU, and outshining the rushing game in yards per attempt by a solid 5.9 to 3.5 margin. Granted, the passing game will almost always beat out the running game in yards per play, but we certainly expected more out of our running game, especially before the injury to Montgomery.
Jared Karstetter is asserting himself as a true #1 receiver, something Jeshua Anderson couldn't even do before he decided to hang up the football cleats for good. That 16.91 yards per catch average is phenomenal - even if he only touches the ball 3-4 times per game. One common theme this year is that the ball is being spread around the whole receiving corps (and sometimes the running backs) - with seven players averaging more than two catches per game. That kind of variety has helped the Cougars take advantage of linebacker mismatches and has kept the QBs away from throwing at the opponents' best corner. There seems to be a quality trio developing in Karstetter, Daniel Blackledge and Jeffrey Solomon. That's good because it takes some of the pressure off of the man who will someday lead this receiving corps: currently concussed freshman Gino Simone.
We also got a wonderful debut out of junior Johnny Forzani Saturday against SMU: two catches for fifty yards. Look for him to get the ball more as the season wears on and his injury troubles (hopefully) slide away. Also encouraging is the occasionally spectacular catching ability of tight end Tony Thompson - although the TE position is likely to be utilized much less often than the wideouts. Maybe the Legend of Stormo can help change our lack of depth there.
HOW TO GET THE GRADE UP: Simple: More catches. More yards. WSU has had a good yard per play average in the passing game, and now just need to utilize it more and move the ball down the field. The main piece of bad news for the WSU receiving corps is that they haven't shown consistency. When your top receiver only catches 3.7 balls a game, there's some instability, and a lack of a go-to guy on third and long. The Cougars would also be well served if they keep avoiding the dropsies. Karstetter had a bad one in the endzone against SMU, but made up for it with the catch that gave Wazzu the chance to tie.
It's been a decent run for the receiving corps so far, but the question remains: can they keep it up against the rest of the Pac-10?