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An early look at the 2018 WSU Cougars

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9 wins may be a stretch for next year.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 28 Holiday Bowl - Washington St v Michigan St Photo by Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Washington State Cougars season may have just ended, but it’s never too early to look ahead to next season. The team will have some quality returnees, but will be losing a lot as well.

Looking at the offensive side of the ball, Tyler Hilinski will be entrenched at the quarterback position and there is a lot of potential there. The transfers of Tavares Martin and Isaiah Johnson-Mack will definitely hurt the wide receiver depth, but there is a chance the passing game is better next year.

Tay Martin and Dez Patmon have shown lots of potential on the outside and the additions of incoming recruits Drue Jackson and Roderick Fisher could make this a very good group. Inexperience is the issue, not talent.

The inside guys will probably be the best group since Leach has been there with the returns of Renard Bell, Jamire Calvin and Kyle Sweet with the likely addition of highly regarded JUCO receiver Calvin Jackson. The running backs should be in good shape as well with the return of Boobie Williams and Keith Harrington combining with star recruit Max Borghi to form a potent group.

The offensive line could be an issue with only Andre Dillard and Fred Mauigoa returning. Some of the young guys such as Abe Lucas and Alec Kuzmack will really need to step up. They have brought a lot recruits in on the line recently and it is put up or shut up time for a lot of these players. This will be the key if the offense will improve or regress.

The defense is going to have a lot of holes to fill, starting with the loss of defensive coordinator Alex Grinch and outside linebackers coach Roy Manning. The Cougars also lose one of the best defensive players in the country with Hercules Mata’afa going to the NFL draft early.

The defensive line is a big question mark and I would anticipate junior college transfer Jonathan Lolohea having to play a major role on the interior of the line. Returnee Nnamdi Oguayo will have be counted on to carry the pass rushing load. Logan Tago figures to play a big role as well. The rush position (presuming it’s still a thing) figures to be filled by Derek Moore or Chima Onyeukwu. Peyton Pelluer (if he gets his sixth year) and Jahad Woods should be a nice duo at linebacker.

If the new coordinator does use the nickel position, the return of Hunter Dale bodes well. In the Cougars have three solid corners returning in Sean Harper, Darrien Molton and Marcus Strong, as well as stud strong safety Jalen Thompson. The big hole is at free safety where the Cougars need Skyler Thomas or Deion Singleton to step up after the departure of Robert Taylor. Otherwise, they will have to turn to a newcomer or maybe a position switch.

The prognosis for next year’s defense is murky with a new coordinator and a number of unproven young players.

The special teams may take a step backwards as well as the Cougars need to replace Erik Powell at kicker.

The schedule isn’t too difficult fortunately, which I think will allow the Cougars to win 6 or 7 games with a lot more shootouts than this season. What are you guys expecting next year?

Football

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