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SPRING FOOTBALL: Names to know

Spring football begins tomorrow at Washington State.  The full previews have been covered in depth and compiled by Nuss here.  Grippi also posted his unedited Spring preview earlier today here.  Since the previews have been covered other places, I thought it'd be good to give you something different.  What follows are some names to get acquainted with this Spring and why they could be the foundation for the program in the years to come.

As a side note, I've seen many of these guys off the field during the course of the last season.  The season tickets I have are across the aisle from where the freshman who were redshirting last year sit during games.  From what I saw, the kids have a passion for the game and want to be on the field contributing to the team.  They hate to lose and want to be a part of something bigger.  During the SMU game, all of the redshirts took off running to the Stadium Way endzone after the coin toss to cheer on the players.  They were the first ones on the field to celebrate with their team.  These guys all seem to have a passion to the game and want to get this thing turned around.

You'll notice right away that the names I'm listing are all on the defensive side.  The younger guys on the offensive side of the ball are already pretty well known and the rest of the offense is filled with quite a few upperclassmen.  The players coming off redshirts, in my opinion, are going to make the most impact on defense.  If the program is going to improve in the future, these are some of the guys that will steer it that way.

Nolan Washington, CB:  A speedy cornerback from Kennedy High, Washington has a good chance of cracking the lineup in a secondary that is very young.  Carpenter is a talented back and should be battling it out with Terrance Hayward and Daniel Simmons for a starting spot.  If nothing else, he provides much needed depth.

Anthony Carpenter, S: Carpenter is also a speed guy at the safety position that may crack the rotation as FS or in nickle and dime situations.  The recurring theme here is that the secondary, especially on the left side, is very young and probably wide open.

Jordan Pu'u Robinson, DL: The area on the defense that needed the biggest improvement and infusion of depth last year was the defensive line.  I think we all remember only having 4 or 5 healthy lineman at one point in the season.  Pu'u-Robinson is an athletic big man, even playing QB at times during high school (like Mkristo Bruce).  He should be in the rotation on the D-Line and needs to step up to shore up some of the holes we have.

Darren Markle, MLB:  Markle is the probably the strongest guy on the team.  In high school, he was a power-lifter.  You can see one of his highlights here.  Lately the Cougs have had a problem being out muscled by other teams, but with Markle at LB that shouldn't be an issue.  The kid is big, strong, and a great fit for the MLB position.

Arthur Burns, OLB: Burns was recruited as a running back before making the transition to the OLB spot during the last season.  Although he's behind Alex Hoffman-Ellis on the depth chart, he could see time on special teams as well as in the LB rotation.  He has 4.5 speed and can provide some nice lateral quickness, like Hoffman-Ellis does.  He may not be a huge contributor right away, but keep an eye on him.

Brandon Rankin, DE/DT:  This one is obvious.  We've all been waiting for him to get to school and get on the field since he committed.  Nick Saban and Alabama made a late push, right before he enrolled, to try to convince him to reconsider.  Rankin is a big body that can play DE and DT.  He's got the size to play inside and the speed to play outside, making his flexibility a big plus on a defensive line that can use all the help it can get.

Sekope Kaufusi, DE/LB:  Another defensive lineman that was transitioned to linebacker.  He's got the size to rush the passer and the speed to play a stand-up lineman.  At 6-3 236 lbs, he's a big boy as an OLB, but that size is going to be needed to stop the run.

Jamal Atofau, SS:  The SS is still Chima Nwachukwu's spot to lose, but there is plenty of young depth behind him.  Atofau was an OLB at Bellevue High, but was way undersized for that spot in college.  Atofau is another quick, high energy guy that was fun to watch at Bellevue and should be the same for the Cougs.

A few notes:

  • The spring depth chart is out and you can find it here.  Keep in mind, this is an early depth chart and there will be a lot of movement before the season actually starts.
  • Speed is the operative word in the program right now.  Wulff recruited speed and is looking for guys to get stronger and faster during the offseason.  If we can't be the biggest guys on the field, and we haven't been lately, we might as well be able to fly around.
  • You may also notice that we are very heavy on DBs and LBs.  It wouldn't surprise me if we see plenty of the 30 stack, or 3-3-5, again this year.  Some of the guys that are backups at the CB and S spots will also see times in 5 and 6 DB packages.
  • We're still not very heavy on depth in the DL spots.  Bernard Wolfgramm is still nursing a bad back and Toby Turpin may or may not be cleared academically.  This is another reason that could point towards the use of more 3 down lineman packages.
  • Louis Bland is still not at 100 percent, giving some of the younger guys a chance to make an impression this spring.  Bland plays the MLB spot, but can also play somewhat of a Rover in the 30 stack defense.  Having him back will add experience to a LB spot that is young otherwise.
  • The Cougs spread out Spring practice by having 15 practices over the course of the next month.  The Spring "game" is April 25th and will be at 5:30.