Spring football practice starts today. With practice about to start and the positions run down over the last week, here's a final look before the players take to the field…
Positions to feel good about:
Quarterback: The quarterback position is strong and deep. Alex Brink returns with plenty of starting experience and there is talent contending for the backup roles.
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Tight End: Cody Boyd is a potential NFL player and brings a lot to the table for the offense. There is good, experienced depth and young players set to emerge.
Wide Receiver: The return of Jason Hill along with the other receivers back for 2006 make this position relatively stocked and strong. Some key backup positions and possibly a starting spot are open and the quality of competition means good things for WSU.
Defensive End: Mkristo Bruce is a player on his way to the NFL and Matt Mullenix showed he can play last season as a sometime starter and first man off the bench. Depth is talented and showed promise last season.
Linebacker: Scott Davis and Steve Dildine are reliable known quantities and depth got a major boost last fall when Cory Evans and Jason Stripling were thrown into the fire as true freshman. The major question is at middle linebacker, where Greg Trent's development may be limited by a nagging leg injury.
Safety: The starters and primary depth players return and the position is deep at both free safety and strong safety. Competition for the backup spots will be strong which will further enhance the position.
Positions to worry about:
Offensive Line: The official spring depth chart lists no backups – none – for left tackle, left guard, and right guard. Depth on the roster is a potential big concern and of the seven players listed on the spring depth only four – not even enough for a starting unit - will be back for 2007.
Running Back: DeMaundray Woolridge is listed as the starter and has the most experience of the contenders…and he will be a true sophomore. Lack of experience is a problem and if the players in Pullman don't look consistently capable and productive by the end of spring practice, too much hope will be riding on the arrival of the 2006 signees in August.
Placekicker: Loren Langley has plenty of leg, but suffered a slump and crisis of confidence at the end of the 2005 season. If he struggles in spring, there is literally no one listed on the roster to step in.
Defensive Tackle: The talent is there, the players are there, but the production struggled last season. The Cougars need to find the answer and an effective rotation that can do well against the run and mount at least occasional pass pressure.
Cornerback: Hoo boy. This is a scary spot. The Cougars absolutely must substantially improve at cornerback this season or the Cougs will need to rely on luck to get to a bowl in 2006. The problem is depth is paper thin and unproven and the 2006 recruiting class produced only two for-sure new arrivals in August.
Punter: Both contenders for the spot are unproven although Darryl Blunt could prove to be a pleasant and much needed surprise.
The official spring depth chart shows Jed Collins listed as a tight end. That would be an interesting development indeed if true. Collins spent 2005 as a fullback, and 2004 splitting time between fullback and linebacker. A move to tight end seems very odd given the depth already at the position…Defensive back Shelton Danzy, the Cougars' first commit for the recruiting class of 2005, has left the team. This is very much a surprise given Danzy's obvious passion for things Coug after his verbal. It is also cause for concern as it further depletes the already worrisome cornerback position…Linebacker Steffan Blume and defensive end Reyshawn Bobo are also no longer on the roster. Blume had struggled with injuries since arriving in Pullman while Bobo seemed unable to crack the depth chart after coming to WSU with great expectations…Long snapper is another position needing resolution in spring. In what is hopefully a mistake, the official depth chart lists graduating senior Nick Mihlhauser as the deep snapper for spring. If true, it might help spring practice somewhat, but it sure as heck won't do anything for the team for the 2006 season.