The game against Southern Utah was a great opportunity for WSU to clean up a few troublesome areas. The blowout win also allowed the Cougars to get some of the depth guys into a game. A few redshirt freshman made their debuts while a few newcomers also saw the field.
Offensive lineman Riley Sorenson was the most notable true freshman to see action for the first time. The Cougars signed an impressive class of offensive linemen in 2013 and many considered Sorenson to be the best of the group. Still, it was a surprise to see him come in for the final two series against Southern Utah.
WSU played with six active offensive linemen for much of last season with the coaching staff taking their lumps in order to preserve an extra year of eligibility for the true freshman and Joe Dahl. Mike Leach said on several occasions that Dahl would have been in the mix for playing time and could have possibly started. Still, he sat out
to get the extra year due to transfer rules.
With that in mind, it surprised me to see Sorenson see some action with the reserves. WSU's has more depth along the offensive line this season with 10 active scholarship players and two other capable walk-ons. They didn't need to play Sorenson at right guard for two series against Southern Utah. Denzell Dotson, Sam Flor or others could have filled in. But, they did.
This coaching staff doesn't seem like the type to burn redshirts for no reason. They went to great lengths to avoid doing it last season, even if it would have helped them. Instead, this may be a sign there are bigger plans for Sorenson this season. The offensive line has been better this season, but there are still issues. Of the starting five, John Fullington and Rico Forbes appear to be having the most trouble.
When talking to Nusser, he made the point that if Sorenson is going to play it could be because he can push for playing time now. He played right guard against Southern Utah, so maybe he'll push Fullington for playing time as the year goes along, or Fullington would kick out to right tackle. It's possible the staff didn't want to throw him into the fire against Auburn or USC and this is their way of easing him in. Seeing how much playing time he gets against Idaho and over the next couple weeks will be very interesting.
Lyman Faoliu also got some playing time this week so he'll likely be in the mix as a backup defensive end through the rest of the season. We knew Isaac Dotson was going to play and he finally did. They join River Cracraft, Daquawn Brown and Vince Mayle as newcomers playing this season.
If a player didn't get in against Southern Utah, there is a good chance they are instead slated to redshirt. There are a couple of surprising names on that list, led by BUCK linebacker Ivan McLennan. After a strong showing in the spring game, many expected McLennan to play a lot right away. Instead, he's stuck behind Destiny Vaeao and Kache Palacio. Wide receiver Robert Lewis is also yet to see the field. Safety Paris Taylor and offensive linemen Jacob Seydel and Devonte McClain also appear on their way to redshirt seasons.
Injuries could change those plans. If Vaeao or Palacio get hurt, it wouldn't be a surprise to see McLennan get some playing time. The same can be said of Lewis at wide receiver.
A year after relying on a lot of newcomers right away, WSU has been able to play only a select few this season. Another positive sign things are moving in the right direction.