Spring football is a bit of a different beast, if you haven't noticed yet. Once fall camp rolls around, with the grind of two-a-days and the urgency that comes with preparing for the season, things will change. But for now, the 15 practice sessions spread over about five weeks allow everyone on the roster -- from Marquess Wilson to the walk-on wide receiver you didn't know existed -- a chance to shine.
As such, there are a few names to keep an eye on. These aren't the entrenched starters or stars of the show, but are players that could break out in the spring. There's always a handful of newcomers of upperclassmen that come out of nowhere and perform well in the spring, and a few of the players below are worth keeping track of.
After the jump, some players to watch and a few predictions.
Darryl Monroe/Cyrus Coen/Darren Markle: This is cheating, but these three are all battling for a spot in the linebacker rotation. You know Chester Su'a by now, and it's likely he'll grab hold of a starting spot. But these three all have an excellent chance to make a strong impression, and each will get plenty of reps.
Monroe, as you know, is coming off an Achilles injury. He's back and certainly looks the part -- bulked up, quick and powerful. Coen was around last year as more of a backup, but with the turnover at linebacker he's got a chance to find his way into the starting rotation. Markle bounced around in the linebacker rotation, stuck behind Alex Hoffman-Ellis and friends previously. He's strong -- a power-lifter, if you've forgotten -- and an excellent fit for one of the middle linebacker spots
Dominique Williams: Or, as I like to call him, Baby Marquess with a flat-top fade. Williams redshirted last year, but should be in the mix at outside receiver. He's fast, big and has a knack for making nice grabs.
Blair Bomber: This is more of a personal choice because of his story. After redshirting in 2010, he promptly tore his ACL during last year's spring practice. Every time I was at practice last season, I saw Bomber running sprints, catching balls from the jugs machine and rehabbing his knee. He's finally back in action and able to fully participate, and he's looked great so far. Bomber fits the mold of an inside receiver almost to a t, so this could be his chance to shine.
Rahmel Dockery: This probably doesn't need much explanation. Dockery's debut on the field has been much-anticipated, and after a semester delay he's finally in Pullman. And then he took a knock to his shoulder during Thursday's and was forced to the side. He'll be fine, it seems, and could slot right in as a punt returner and slot receiver.
Drew Loftus: Made a few nice grabs on Saturday and could be a nice pickup as a walk-on. No idea if he'll be anything more than a practice guy and depth, but he looked quite solid going through drills and catching passes.
Andrei Lintz: He's been more a blocking tight, but look for Lintz to break out. Right now, he looks like Leach's x-factor, a guy that can move around, play a bunch of different positions and create some matchup problems in the route. Lintz is more athletic than most realize, and Leach seems to be enamored with him.
Aaron Dunn: Because everybody always asks about him. Dunn is still at tight end, and as you know there aren't a ton of plays designed for that position in Mike Leach's offense. As of now, it appears Lintz is the clear starter at whatever that position is. Dunn could play a similar role.
Logan Mayes/Tana Pritchard: Mayes was playing a bit out of position last season, working as a situational pass-rushing defensive end. He's got an incredible understanding of leverage and balance, as well as a strong repertoire of rush moves, but should be a natural fit at the outside linebacker spot this year. With his athleticism and ability to get after the quarterback, he'll be able to get upfield or drop back into coverage.
Pritchard is similar in a lot of ways. He's about the same size as Mayes -- a little bit lighter and shorter -- but is oozing with athleticism. He seems like a guy that should be in the mix at linebacker and, like the rest, has a chance to make an impression this spring.
Mike Bowlin: Why is a kicker here? Because in my own uninformed opinion, he's also the punter right now. He's got a big leg and figures to handle the kickoff duties, and may challenge Andrew Furney for the placekicking job, too. He may just do everything on special teams.
Remember, these are some names you may have forgotten or didn't even know in the first place. Most of the defense, outside the linebacking corps, is all but set, with plenty of returning players. The offense, as you may have noticed, is much more wide-open at the moment, and with Leach using a deep rotation, many receivers will see action.
Who are you looking forward to seeing? Which players do you think are poised to make a move?
-- On KJR Leach opened the door for Sekope Kaufusi to return sometime in the future, saying it was possible he could be back after an "extended time off."
-- Also on KJR, Leach noted he saw a lot of mini-skirts and hot pants on College Hill ... and that it's like 37 degrees out.
-- Leach also singled out Lintz and was basically drooling over him during the interview. Because he's smarter than me and is researching this stuff, here's what Mark had to say:
The Texas Tech comparison would probably be Bristol Olomua. 6-5 259 and caught 55 passes in two seasons at Tech. The most TE targets of anyone under Leach.
-- It was Future Cougar Day on Saturday and a large tour group was gathered on top of the library just after practice started. The group broke out into a loud "Go Cougs" chant for a bit as the team went through its initial drills. Job well done there.