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WSU football mailbag: What should we really expect from the new receivers?

That, plus many more answers to your email questions!

Jamire Calvin, one of WSU’s new receivers looking to make an immediate impact.
Student Sports Photos

Welcome to the CougCenter mailbag. If you want to participate next week, send your queries to On to the questions!

Really only 1 receiver, from what I know, has come into Leach's offense and picked it up in the first year. That guy is River Cracraft. Gabe Marks, Vince Mayle both really took a year to get settled in to the offense. Why will guys like Jamire Calvin and Easop Winston legitimately understand how to play in this offense in the first year when so many haven't been able to?

Also: Getting a morning tee time at Palouse Ridge, tailgating all afternoon, and then going to a late afternoon/night game in Martin Stadium in the month of September/early October. Is this the best day ever?

Nathan S.

Craig: I don’t play golf. Don’t @ me.

Cassino: I used to play golf, then we had a kid and LOL what’s free time, precious?

Nuss: But I think we can agree that sounds like a pretty danged great day. What was the first question again?

PJ: I’m not sure if it’s really fair to group Marks in there, as the team was patently awful during his freshman season. He started off ok, but kind of fizzled out. In Mayle’s case, he was trying to learn to play receiver on top of learning the system. Leach has long said that his system functions best when the older players know the system well enough that they can teach the younger guys. That wasn’t the case in the first couple years, but I think we’re close to that now. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this year’s new guys perform at a higher level than the guys who came in within a year or two of Leach.

Preston: Morning? What is this “morning” you speak off? Swing shift is great guys, always work it if you can. But seriously, feel free to add me to your group and buy me a drink or four.

As far as the receivers go, the best thing for them (or really anyone in the Air Raid) is repetition, repetition and, well, repetition. Incoming guys will be disadvantaged from that stand point to be sure but I think the caliber of athlete at WSU is increasing as well. Marks is up there amongst the best receivers to ever play at WSU (Cracraft too) and I think it will still take Calvin, Winston, etc. time to get accustomed to the offense. But they certainly have a leg up on previous recruiting classes right off the bat in that respect I think.

Sherwood: I enjoy golfing, but if I’m being honest with myself, like 75% of the reason I’m out there is so I can drink outside. Once we get to football season and I can tailgate and cornhole, golf has served its purpose. If you could swing by my tailgate lot before you head out though, I’d like to throw my FitBit on your bag so it thinks I got my steps in for the day.

As for the receivers, I can only hope that Luke Falk makes it easy enough for them that they can’t possibly screw it up.

Cassino: So as to the actual question, I think we’ve seen receivers pick up the Air Raid pretty quickly. Marks wasn’t yet the GOAT, but he had 40-some catches, if memory serves, and what PJ said re: talent level. And don’t forget Brett Bartolone on that squad. Had 50+ catches as a freshman. But Calvin, Bell, et al may pick it up more quickly simply because they are better (possibly even than Marks, in Calvin’s case, which ... yeah) than the others, but also because of the familiarity with the Air Raid in high school ball nowadays. You’d be hard pressed to find a high school that throws the ball with any regularity that doesn’t employ some level of Air Raid scheme or concepts. So they’re not starting in Air Raid 101, as it were.

Nuss: I was going to say pretty much the same thing as PJ — it sure helps that those guys have Luke Falk throwing to them instead of Connor Halliday in his first year as a starter and second year in the system.

Craig: I will be drinking beer in the morning instead. I think the worries over new receivers picking up the Air Raid are warranted.

Why does an Athletic Department that struggles financially not take my money!!!! I cannot find the new jerseys anywhere besides a Crimson number 1. Why have so many different jersey combos if you wont take your fans money and let them purchase! I need Anthracite, I need Icy White. Yet none are available anywhere.

Craig: Oh man, I feel you Matt. It is so hard to give money to WSU, even through the channel that is designed to take donations. If I were in charge, all the jerseys would have been available at the Spring Game. I have called too many times to complain that WSU was not taking my money. That’s like a strange form of Sadism I think.

PJ: I’ve written hundreds upon hundreds of words as to why my school makes it so damn difficult for me to give them my money. I could write hundreds more. But at least they reward donors with really cool gifts. Like the time they sent me a shattered CAF cup, and though I called and left a detailed message about the shattered cup, they have not called back nearly a week later. I called an additional three times and got the answering machine every time. What were we talking about? Oh yeah, jerseys. I don’t buy college jerseys and will never ever buy a college jersey so I can’t help you there.

Craig: They messed up my parking passes and were supposed to send me an envelope to trade in my incorrect passes for the correct ones. I don’t need to tell you if that envelope ever came.

PlayStation Fiesta Bowl - Ohio State v Clemson
WSU doesn’t offer a lot of jersey purchase options. Which begs the question: Should college fans even wear jerseys?
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Nuss: Need a ruling here, though. Many of you subscribe to the idea that you shouldn’t wear a jersey of someone younger than you. However, these are generic. Fair game?

Craig: I think if you want to buy a jersey, buy a jersey. Don’t let the man hold you down.

PJ: They’re not really generic if a player on the team has the same number as the jersey you’re wearing, which, with almost 100 players, is a near certainty. Nobody is going to call you out of the bleachers to sub on special teams, so buy a hat and a t-shirt and call it good (while saving money for not having bought an expensive jersey).

Nuss: The NCAA vehemently objects to your assertion that the number on the jersey is in any way tied to a specific student-athlete.

Preston: If you wanna wear a jersey, wear a jersey. Just don’t wear a Seahawks jersey to a Mariners game.

As for the jerseys, no idea why they haven’t made them more available yet. I’d certainly be interested in an anthracite one after spilling bacon grease on my old gray one which I loved. The bloody marys were worth it, though.

Cassino: Judgment-free zone on my part. If you want to wear a jersey, do you. The thing I’d rather see is them selling the old jerseys. Like that tweet the Equipment folks sent out of the Holiday Bowl jerseys from ‘03. I was calculating the value of various organs when that came across my timeline.

Craig: 100 percent agree with Preston. Just because you are going to a sports event doesn’t mean you have to wear a sports thing. Especially for baseball. There are 10,000 games a year. It’s okay to wear normal clothes.

Sherwood: I’m still waiting on my mug, CAF.

What’s the most important non-conference and most important conference game? And which player could tip the tides to WSU in each of those games?

Colin C.

Craig: Boise State I guess. But actually Montana State because holy f**k we haven’t beaten an FCS team since I moved back to Washington. My pregnant lady’s only game this year will be Montana State. Don’t ruin it, Cougs. Being pregnant sucks I’ve heard. Player that tips the tide: Luke Falk? He’s had slow starts each of the last two years. I hope he comes out and lights up the Bobcat defense and takes a few chances against an inferior opponent.

PJ: I liked it better when you were Craif, Craig. (inside Google docs joke) Montana State is absolutely the most important non-conference game. Our fan base has some major PTSD with opening day, and the only way to exorcise those demons is with a win. I can’t believe I’m pointing to the FCS game when our team is ranked, but here we are. I don’t know a lot about MSU, but I think their QB who is obviously better than Tyler Bruggman is a good runner, so I’ll say that the key player in that game is Peyton Pelluer.

Conference-wise, it’s Oregon. As much as I want to believe, I don’t think WSU is beating USC. Assuming (and we all know how well assuming works out) WSU is 4-1 leaving that game, the trip to Oregon in the linchpin for the rest of the season. After that, it’s Cal, Colorado and Arizona. That means a win at Oregon puts WSU in a position to be 8-1/5-1 with Stanford coming to town. The key to that game is Falk. If he can keep his cool (I think he can) in that hostile environment, he should cut Oregon to ribbons.

Nuss: Yeah, I’ll go with Montana State. Absolutely, positively, cannot lose that game. Ergo, most important. As for the player in that game? As long as Robert Taylor and Jalen Thompson don’t repeat their performances against Eastern Washington, I think we’re probably good. PROBABLY.

Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual - USC v Penn State
Most important conference game for WSU right here?
Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Cassino: I’m not snarky with the FCS/first game stuff usually, but it genuinely has to be Montana State.

Conference game kind of depends on how we define important. For whether we have a legitimate shot at winning the Pac-12? USC, hands down. That’s the barometer. The player that could potentially tip that one is a defensive lineman other than Mata’afa wreaking havoc in the USC backfield. Whether it’s Moore or Oguayo or Player TBD, somebody has to step up.

Preston: I’ll go with the clean sweep on Montana State because holy crap, we need to beat them so badly and also my wife and I will be there celebrating our 5th anniversary so I’d like to remember it fondly. Also, come to Valhalla and buy us drinks.

In conference, I’ll say, again, USC because that can really set the tone for what I think will be the toughest part of the schedule through October. As usual, this team lives and dies (offensively anyway) with quarterback play so Luke Falk desperate needs to avoid the slow start that has plagued him the past couple of years.

Nuss: I also think it’s USC for the conference game. Maybe that’s just because it’s on my radar at the moment and we haven’t seen how the season is playing out, but there’s a good chance we’re 4-0 and both teams are in the top 15. Beating USC on primetime on ESPN when it’s being watched by just about every college football fan in the country would do wonders for the perception of WSU — including with Southern California recruits.

Craig: If you have aspirations of conference titles, USC is the most important. If you don’t think the Cougs have that in them, probably Oregon State (can’t lose the ones you should win).

Sherwood: PJ stole both of my answers. Montana State because I’m tired of losing to the Montana States out there, and Oregon because if we’re already calling USC a loss, Oregon is the biggest thing standing in our way for getting Gameday for the Stanford game.

Todd McShay lists his top 10 OL candidates for the 2018 NFL draft. Cody O'Connell is not on the list. Question is, why not? Is this just another snub for O'Connell? Does his game not translate to the pro game? Or do maybe Joe Dahl's criticisms of his lack of scheme development during his time at WSU play a role in McShay's evaluation?

Philip P.

Nuss: Because Todd McShay is bad at his job. Wake me up when Rob Rang weighs in on O’Connell’s draftability.

PJ: I don’t think McShay is dumb like the coaches (or whomever they designate) who vote for all-conference, so bias against him doesn’t enter the equation for me. I think O’Connell is really tough to project because he is the size of a tackle, but he plays guard. If you ask NFL coaches and scouts about college offensive line play, they will bitch and moan about how the advent of the spread offense has made linemen less-and-less NFL-ready. I don’t know how true that is but time will tell. They probably see a little of that with O’Connell, and McShay probably does too. It’s tough to forecast a guy like O’Connell who is always in a two-point stance, because he’ll have to be in a three-point stance a lot more on the next level.

Craig: More like Turd McShay. Also, my phone is dying, so I’m out.

Nuss: Tood McSturdy?

Preston: Modd TcShay.

Cassino: The NFL doesn’t value college guards very highly.

Nuss: Unless you’re the Seahawks!

Cassino: They’re just as likely to get point guards to play guard. But the old wisdom in the League was that OT was your elite lineman prospect, OC was right up there, and then you got any two schlubs off the street to play OG. That mentality hasn’t entirely gone away.

Nuss: I do think O’Connell will probably need to convince someone he can play right tackle to maximize his draft value. I think he can, but I’m a homer.

Preston: Also, what PJ said.

Sherwood: To be fair to McShay, I’m sure he was basing his evaluations on Cody’s All Pac-12 Honorable Mention last season and not the first team All-American award the rest of the country thought he deserved.

In my morning drive today here in OKC, the chatterheads were recalling how Oklahoma's wishbone offense revolutionized and popularized college football in the 1970s. Thinking of how the Air Raid as further revolutionized and popularized college football in the 21st century, I imagined a wishbone formation with Morrow at QB, Wicks at FB, Williams at LHB and Harrington at RHB. Mailbag questions: Could it be stopped? Then why would it not be tried?

Tim H.

Nuss: First of all, my condolences for living in OKC. Go Sonics! #bringemback

PJ: This is a fascinating question. But first off, you need to call those sports radio hacks and tell them that Emory Bellard invented the wishbone, and first implemented it at Texas, whose coach at the time was Darrell Royal. Oklahoma simply copied it. I’m sure the folks in Oklahoma wouldn’t object.

I’d actually put Sweet at QB. If he can punt without practicing, surely he can throw, right? Right?! Plus, as much as those guys would run, they need at least one bench player. EDIT: Jeff is right, put Dotson in there. The only super minor issue (or a huge issue) would be finding a few Tight Ends. It would be about as successful as running the Air Raid. WSU would go somewhere between 6-6 to 9-3 every year, but killing the clock wouldn’t be nearly as much of an issue. Rod Gilmore told me to write that.

Washington State v Arizona
Imagine these guys in a wishbone with James Williams.
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Nuss: What about Isaac Dotson at QB? He played QB in high school. He’d be able to throw competently enough to keep defenses honest, I’d think.

Cassino: Doesn’t the Wishbone need at least one tight end? I think it does. We don’t do that here, sir. Although the idea of a Single Wing look with those four and Renard Bell as the extra man/jet sweep guy is super intriguing.

Preston: The smart aleck answer is “because we run the Air Raid” but that’s not fun and this is a fun question.

I’m practically salivating at the prospect of this set of running backs in that offense. Georgia Tech obviously still runs the triple option effectively and in terms of fitting in with a “find a system you can easily recruit to WSU for”, the wishbone would fit.

In theory. Problem being the deemphasis of the running back both in college and at the NFL level. Though I suppose the question is whether it would work with this group specifically so in a very roundabout way: yes, but any time in the future it wouldn’t.

Nuss: Leach likes to compare the Air Raid to the wishbone in terms of the distribution of touches — someone should plant this idea in his ear as a quirky thing to do in homage to the Air Raid’s philosophical predecessor. I might pay actual money to see this come to fruition.

Sherwood: My brain went haywire after “OKC” and I couldn’t read the rest of the question.

Not exactly a football-oriented question, but I have been wondering for some time what HCA stands for in some of your stories.


Rick C.

Sherwood: Hijacked College Answers. Craig will take your math test for you for a six pack of Hamm’s.

Nuss: Story time! So, way back when, Brian Floyd and I decided we needed a name for our daily link post. We kicked around some ideas:

Thus, Hot Cougar Action was born. And yes, we did get a non-zero amount of search traffic from people looking for “hot cougars.”

PJ: How on earth do you still have that? #internethoarder

I Googled “hot cougar” and here’s what came up (warning: NSFW). I don’t know why we ever stopped spelling it out.

Nuss: Gmail’s archive function is a treasure!