WSU enters 2014 season with small, resilient group of seniors

Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

The WSU football team heads into the 2014 season with a relatively small senior class of fourteen. I take a look back at where these seniors have come from and what their 2014 roles will be.

For the past several years, a new Senior Day tradition has developed at WSU where seniors emerge from the tunnel carrying an Ol' Crimson flag before their final home game at Martin Stadium. If tradition continues this year, fourteen seniors will be issued banners prior to the Apple Cup on November 29th. Most of the players in this relatively small group have been a part of drastic changes that were the result of the November 2011 coaching change that brought Mike Leach to Pullman to replace Paul Wulff. The survival of the group is mostly the product of the players showing they could play in a Pac-12 conference that overlooked them as recruits. Several seniors will be bringing a lot of experience to key roles this season.

The following chart is a list of seniors on this year's team with their recruiting information and year of arrival on campus:

No.

Name

Position

Arrived

Rivals' stars

Other notable offers

24

Tracy Clark

CB

2010

2

Fresno St., San Jose St.

42

Cyrus Coen

LB

2011

walk-on

NA

65

Alex den Blyker

LS

2011

walk-on

NA

50

Lyman Faoliu

DL

2013

3 (JC)

Maryland, Oregon St.

12

Connor Hallday

QB

2010

3

Hawaii, Idaho

5

Rickey Galvin

WR

2010

3

San Diego St.

35

Marcus Mason

RB

2011

2

None

1

Vince Mayle

WR

2013

3(JC)

Arizona St., West Virginia

88

Isiah Myers

WR

2011

2

None

48

Mitchell Peterson

LB

2011

walk-on

NA

98

Toni Pole

DL

2010

2

Utah

74

Jeff Waldner

DL

2011

walk-on

NA

24

Theron West

RB

2012

3 (JC)

Ohio, Toledo

18

Kristoff Williams

WR

2010

2

Army, Nevada

With the exception of three JuCo recruits brought in under Leach, none of the seniors on this year's team held any other Pac-10 offers among them. In comparison, the seven players on WSU's current committal list for the class of 2015 hold a combined total of 22 other Pac-12 offers. Outside Pac-12 offers were rare when most of this year's seniors committed to WSU. The recruiting class of 2011, the year six members of this year's senior class came to WSU, only held one Pac-12 offer among 25 recruits. WSU hasn't likely moved beyond the point of having to discover a few 'diamonds in the rough,' and Mike Leach has proven apt at finding such players. However, an entire recruiting class simply can't consist of players that have hidden upsides. A high percentage will not pan out. The small list of seniors on this year's roster are a testament to that. Several of them have been thrown against the wall of Pac-12 competition and have stuck while many that they came in with were lost to attrition.

Most members of the senior class will be contributors that will bring a lot of experience to important roles this season. Here is a chart of the experience of this year's senior class and their projected role in 2014:

No.

Name

Games

Starts

2014 Projection

24

Tracy Clark

20

0

will compete for starting CB spot

42

Cyrus Coen

34

23

should start at SAM

65

Alex den Blyker

30

28

will continue long snapping duties

50

Lyman Faoliu

13

0

depth on DL

12

Connor Hallday

30

23

will start at quarterback

5

Rickey Galvin

29

14

will compete for starts at H

35

Marcus Mason

37

12

will compete for starts at RB

1

Vince Mayle

13

0

will see a lot of reps at X

88

Isiah Myers

33

14

will see a lot of reps at Z

48

Mitchell Peterson

9

0

will compete for time at SAM

98

Toni Pole

35

15

will start at NT

74

Jeff Waldner

0

0

depth on DL

24

Theron West

13

1

will compete for reps at RB

18

Kristoff Williams

34

3

will see a lot of reps at Y

Total

328

135

This year's senior class will enter the season with a combined 328 games played and 135 starts. Subtract den Bleyker's games and counted starts as a long snapper, the total sits at a more modest 298 games and 107 starts. Many of the seniors find themselves competing for spots on the depth chart or working in on rotation. Only Halliday, Pole, and Coen appear to be clear every-down starters for the Cougs at their positions. Each of the four receivers will see considerable repetitions on the playing field and account for many yards in WSU's Air Raid attack. They accounted for a total of 1765 receiving yards between them last season.  Mason and West will both see time at the running back position, but are in stiff competition with Teondray Caldwell and Jamal Morrow for playing time. One key advantage Mason has going for him seems to be his ability to catch the ball out of the F. Last year he hauled in 53 passes for a total of 390 yards (7.5 avg.).

By season's end, WSU fans are likely to have a positive outlook on the future with a lot of players returning in 2015 and a strong recruiting class coming in. This optimism should not overshadow the important role this year's class of seniors have played in helping the program climb to another level. The senior players on this year's roster have been a critical link between the past and future of WSU football. Their recruiting profiles resemble the type of players WSU typically landed under Bill Doba and Wulff. Yet they have managed to endure change and be the type of players coaches and fans had hoped they could be by playing at the major conference level. Members of this senior class have had a crucial hand in pulling out a major Apple Cup upset and registering six wins to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2003 in 2013. Now they get one year to enjoy the growth of WSU football in the new Football Operations Building. One thing is for sure, they can see plenty of space on the FOB's walls where they can put a final stamp on their legacy at WSU.

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