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NCAA Football: Stanford at Washington State James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

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Reasons for excitement and panic across the offense in 2018

Let’s take a big picture look at the Cougs when they have the ball.

This is the latest in our series of stories previewing the 2018 Washington State Cougars football season. For other installments, click here.


There seems to be a vast difference of opinion when it comes to projecting the 2018 version of the Washington State Cougars offense, if prognosticators and fan commentary are to be studied.

On one end, you have folks assuming the offense will be just fine — a Mike Leach offense will always generate yardage and scoring — and on the other end we have people assuming WSU will take a big step back this year, perhaps a bridge year before the young talent on the roster matures. The latter argument is why WSU was picked fifth in the Pac-12 North.

Both sides might have some merit. Compared to 2017, the Cougs don’t return an overwhelming amount — both in starters and coaches — and there is reason to be skeptical and optimistic at the same time. We don’t know exactly what to expect from the quarterback position, and there are three new faces on the offensive line. As Zane noted last week, the Cougs’ recruiting has improved over the past few years, so it’s not like the new guys creeping up the depth chart are a bunch of slouches.

The receiver corps has fans excited, and that’s after losing three of their top five receivers in terms of yardage. At running back, there is a proven player, a once-promising depth guy and an impressive true freshman.

Let’s look at each position group and give reasons for both excitement and panic.


Quarterback

East Carolina v Temple Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

2018 Quarterbacks

Name Year Size
Name Year Size
Gardner Minshew Senior 6'2", 220 lbs.
Trey Tinsley RS Junior 6'3", 215 lbs.
Anthony Gordon RS Junior 6'3", 200 lbs.
Casey Brink RS Sophomore 6'2", 205 lbs.
Connor Neville RS Freshman 6'2", 205 lbs.
John Bledsoe RS Freshman 6'3", 220 lbs.
Cammon Cooper Freshman 6'4", 205 lbs.

Reasons to be excited

Three quarterbacks competed for a while, making it difficult for Mike Leach to settle on a top two, and even a starter. I guess that’s good for depth, should a quarterback struggle or be injured. It’s looking like Gardner Minshew and his ‘stache will be the starter, and his on-field energy is contagious.

Reasons to panic

Typically, a new quarterback will have had some playing time the previous season. Of course, the tragic loss of Tyler Hilinski means all we have to go off of at the quarterback position are some highlights from Minshew’s time at East Carolina. We don’t know what to expect with him running Mike Leach’s offense.

Outlook

Minshew apparently studied Mike Leach’s offense with Hall Mumme, so it’s not like he’s entering totally foreign territory. Luke Falk was often praised for his toughness and calmness. I’m interested in how Minshew carries the team through lulls and adversity. Having watched exactly one scrimmage — which doesn’t exactly make me an expert, mind you — Minshew seems to be much more decisive with the ball. Let’s hope that carries into the season when the opponent changes each week.


Running Backs

USC v Washington State Photo by William Mancebo/Getty Images

2018 Running Backs

Name Year Size
Name Year Size
Keith Harrington RS Senior 5'8", 200 lbs.
Solomon Cooper RS Senior 5'9", 175 lbs.
James Williams RS Junior 6'0", 205 lbs.
Caleb Perry RS Freshman 5'8", 170 lbs.
Max Borghi Freshman 5'10", 195 lbs.

Reasons to be excited

James Williams is now a redshirt junior and this could be his breakout year. He’s had plenty of flashes his first two seasons, but being behind Jamal Morrow made it difficult for him to see the spotlight. He’s atop the depth chart and it might only be a matter of time until a “Boobie for Heisman” banner goes up on a grain bin.

Keith Harrington is also out of the depth chart shadows after impressing at times during his freshman season in 2015. And then there’s true freshman Max Borghi’s who’s been with the team since January. He’s young, but one reporter has him as the no. 2 option right now.

Reasons to panic

I honestly can’t think of any, short of an onslaught of injuries.

Outlook

Though WSU returns just 39 percent of its rushing yards gained, Williams has proven he could be a star. Borghi will be fun to watch as well, and we’ll hopefully soon find out why Stanford wanted him so bad.

Mike Leach called Jamal Morrow the team’s best player last season. We probably took him for granted, but I’m optimistic Williams, Borghi and Harrington will be just fine.


Wide Receivers

Washington State v Utah Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images

2018 Wide Receivers

Name Year Size
Name Year Size
Robert Lewis "Graduate Student" 5'9", 167 lbs.
Marcus Wyke RS Senior 6'4", 225 lbs.
Kyle Sweet Senior 6'0", 190 lbs.
Easop Winston Jr. RS Junior 5'11", 190 lbs.
Brandon Arconado RS Junior 6'0", 190 lbs.
Kainoa Wilson RS Junior 5'1", 165 lbs.
Dezmon Patmon Junior 6'4", 220 lbs.
Calvin Jackson Jr. Junior 5'10", 170 lbs.
Renard Bell RS Sophomore 5'8", 162 lbs.
Drew Kobayashi RS Sophomore 6'2", 200 lbs.
Tay Martin Sophomore 6'3", 185 lbs.
Jamire Calvin Sophomore 5'10", 160 lbs.
Travell Harris RS Freshman 5'9", 180 lbs.
Hayden Harvey RS Freshman 6'2", 165 lbs.
Jonny Neville RS Freshman 6'3", 210 lbs.
Rodrick Fisher Freshman 6'2", 195 lbs.
Brandon Gray Freshman 6'5", 190 lbs.
Drue Jackson Freshman 6'1", 195 lbs.
Kassidy Woods Freshman 6'4", 205 lbs.
Mitchell Quinn Freshman 5'11", 160 lbs.

Reasons to be excited

Tay Martin is poised to break out. Robert Lewis was granted an extra year. Jamire Calvin, Renard Bell and Kyle Sweet are back at the inside position. Dezmon Patmon — while still searching for his first career touchdown — is still a big dude on the outside who is also out from the depth chart shadows. Oh, and spring football MVP Easop Winston is back in shape. Brandon Arconado has played well during fall camp. And we haven’t even mentioned the young stars, like Travell Harris, Rodrick Fisher, Drue Jackson and Calvin ‘Netflix’ Jackson Jr. (of “Last Chance U” fame), among others.

Mike Leach likes to use eight receivers, two at each of the four positions. Which eight will it be?

Reasons to panic

There is a semi-large gap between experience and youth, though the youth is skilled enough that we probably shouldn’t panic too much.

Outlook

This group of wide receivers has all sorts of potential. There’s size, speed and athleticism throughout the lineup. And I haven’t even mentioned how the running backs play into the passing game. Remember: James Williams led the team in receptions last season.


Offensive Line

Washington State v Utah Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images

2018 Offensive Line

Name Year Size
Name Year Size
Andre Dillard RS Senior 6'5", 310 lbs.
Robert Valencia RS Senior 6'6", 300 lbs.
Noah Osur-Myers RS Junior 6'4", 310 lbs.
Frederick Mauigoa Junior 6'3", 305 lbs.
Josh Watson RS Sophomore 6'4", 300 lbs.
Liam Ryan RS Sophomore 6'5", 295 lbs.
Christian Haangana RS Sophomore 6'4", 345 lbs.
Vaughnden Handel RS Sophomore 6'7", 300 lbs.
Abraham Lucus RS Freshman 6'7", 320 lbs.
Brian Greene RS Freshman 6'3", 305 lbs.
Seth Yost RS Freshman 6'7", 300 lbs.
Carson Shuman Freshman 6'3", 270 lbs.
Jarrett Kingston Freshman 6'5", 260 lbs.
Cade Beresford Freshman 6'7", 275 lbs.
Syr Riley Freshman 6'4", 365 lbs.
Blake McDonald Freshman 6'5", 330 lbs.

Reasons to be excited

These guys are massive. The smallest linemen who isn’t a freshman is starting center Fred Mauigoa. Redshirt freshman Abe Lucas is the most massive, standing 6’7” and 320 pounds after apparently eating an entire dining hall in the offseason. There’s a veteran leader at left tackle in Andre Dillard, and right guard Robert Valencia has some experience.

Reasons to panic

Size and leadership are good and all, but if that’s all you have to boast, you might have some reasons to worry. We’ve grown accustomed to a mostly consistent lineup along the offensive line but after losing three linemen to graduation and Noah Osur-Myers to surgery, not to mention some offseason defections, we might be in for some ups and downs.

Outlook

The starting unit seems to be solidified and has been more or less since the spring. It’s the second group that has had its troubles through fall camp. And don’t forget that the starting offensive line unit played for both teams at the spring game due to a lack of numbers.

The rebuilt offensive line will have to protect a new quarterback, too. Fingers crossed!


Fullback

Courtesy of WSU Athletic Communications

2018 Fullback

Name Year Size
Name Year Size
Clay Markoff RS Sophomore 5'9", 235 lbs.

Reasons to be excited

When’s the last time we had a true fullback on the roster? Markoff is listed as a fullback and here’s hoping we see him line up behind the quarterback at least once in a goal line situation.

Please, Mike Leach. Let us have this one.

Reasons to panic

Rule of thumb: Never panic when the fullback heads onto the field.


New Faces

UAB v South Carolina Photo by Mary Ann Chastain/Getty Images

The coaching turnover in the offseason makes it difficult to remember who is coaching what position. Here’s a refresher for the offense:

Running Backs

Out: Jim Mastro
In: Eric Mele

Offensive Line

Out: Clay Maguire
In: Mason Miller

Outside Receivers

Out: Derek Sage
In: Steve Spurrier Jr.


Poll

How are you feeling about the 2018 version of the WSU offense?

This poll is closed

  • 61%
    Excited
    (487 votes)
  • 5%
    Panicking
    (40 votes)
  • 33%
    I have no idea how I should feel
    (267 votes)
794 votes total Vote Now
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