The start of the 2017 Washington State football season is just 25 days away and the feeling of excitement for Cougar football is building on the Palouse. Junior wide receiver Tavares Martin Jr. is one of the five names projected to have a breakout year given by Theo Lawson of the Spokesman-Review. Who else could we see have a breakout year?
Joining Martin on that list is kicker Erik Powell, noseguard Daniel Ekuale, nickel Hunter Dale, and another receiver in Kyle Sweet. Lawson says these five are all capable of having a breakout season. A season like Luke Falk had three years ago when he broke onto the scene as a walk-on, or when Peyton Pelluer doubled his tackles in just one season, or last season when Cody O’Connell became the second ever unanimous All-American for the Cougars.
Including Martin on this list removes him from the list of breakouts from the 2016 season. Martin found himself right behind Cougar legend Gabe Marks in receptions, yards, and touchdowns last season. Martin’s 64 receptions for 728 yards and 7 touchdowns last season wouldn’t normally count towards a breakout year; but the increase from his 2015 numbers (16 catches for 124 yards and 1 touchdown) says otherwise.
Things are a little different for Sweet however, as he was just outside the top-5 in yards and touchdowns, but did it with the 9th most receptions on the team. Sweet started out hot in 2016 having caught 12 passes for 216 yards and two touchdowns in the first 4 games. Things didn’t stay hot for him as he managed just 1 catch a game until River Cracraft went down and Sweet’s number was called 9 times for 87 yards and 1 touchdown against Colorado and Minnesota.
Saying that the Cougars need a breakout season from a receiver should not be a surprise to anyone. The Cougars offense has all the parts to do some major damage this season, things just need to fall into place for the train to catch some speed.
On the other side of the ball both Ekuale and Dale have the capability to really make a big name for themselves. However, the guy I am looking at to have a breakout year is Sophomore safety Jalen Thompson.
Thompson started all 13 games last season after getting beat by now Los Angeles Rams receiver Kooper Kupp for a 75-yard touchdown against Eastern Washington. Every new day last season was something that Thompson had not experienced yet. With a year under his belt, a full off-season, and a coaching staff that understands how to fully use him, I see Thompson having a breakout year and complimenting Robert Taylor at the safety position.
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Breakout performances are part of the formula that makes college football such an exciting attraction for its fans and followers. Every season, nearly every team has a player, or multiple players, who make their biggest strides a year or two earlier than expected and take on a starring role almost overnight. Those stories have come in bunches at Washington State.