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Looking ahead to Cougar football in 2017.

With the ugly Holiday Bowl in the rearview mirror, let’s look ahead to 2017. The Cougars(barring any early entry to the NFL draft) should return star quarterback Luke Falk and All-American Guard Cody O’Connell. The three-headed running back combination that was so successful will be back as well. With offensive line stalwarts such as Cole Madison and Andre Dillard returning, the biggest concern on offense looks to be the receiving corps. On the outside Cougar fans will have to hope that Tavares Martin and Isaiah Johnson-Mack will continue to develop and that redshirt freshman Grant Porter and Dezmon Patmon can step in. On the inside we need to hope Kyle Sweet returns to his 2015 form and that Robert Lewis has a big senior year. I think the Holiday Bowl game exposed our pass-catchers as our biggest question mark.

On the defensive side of the ball the biggest question mark will be the interior of the defensive line with the losses of Robert Barber and Daniel Ekuale. Big shoes to fill for Ngalu Tapa. Safety has to be another concern with the graduation of Shalom Luani. Robert Taylor and Jalen Thompson are the expected starters with the nickel position to be determined. Lots of returnees abound at the cornerback, linebacker and rush end positions. Expect Hercules Mata'afa to contend for All-American honors.

Looking at next year’s schedule the Cougars have an incredible home slate with all 3 non-conference teams visiting Martin Stadium. Montana State, Boise State and Nevada will all be coming to town. WSU hosts Colorado, Stanford, Oregon State and USC in Pac-12 play. On the road the Cougars will face UA, Cal, Oregon, Utah and UW. Arizona and Cal look to be the best road trip options for Cougar fans. This schedule definitely gives the Cougs another good shot at 8 wins or better.

How are you guys feeling about next year? Holiday Bowl make it tough to be optimistic?

Football

Cougars had solid season, but they must start and finish stronger | The Seattle Times
The team’s five losses show that while WSU is much improved from the pre-Leach era, it is not yet ready to join the likes of UW and Colorado in the category of “overhaul completed.”

2016 Seattle sports year in review