By Jacob Thorpe The News Tribune
LEWISTON — Finding Nick Begg on a Washington State practice field can be tricky.
One can never be certain what position, or even what side of the ball the freshman will be practicing with that day.
The WSU coaches brought Begg onto the team with the idea that his body type could make him an ideal tight end, or defensive end, or outside linebacker. Unless, of course, his body type changes and he grows into an offensive linemen.
They are sure he will play, eventually; they just aren’t sure where it will be.
“We’re kind of curious what the future holds as far as where he ends up,” head coach Mike Leach said. “I think he probably needs another offseason, stuff like that but those guys that are as tall as him, run as well as he does, long arms, they have a funny way of always finding a place.”
Begg began his collegiate career at Arizona State in 2013 as a defensive end. He was only a part-time student, however, asked to “gray shirt” or delay his enrollment one season.
Because he wasn’t a member of the roster, he was able to transfer without penalty to Washington State, where he was welcomed by a pair of high school teammates, offensive lineman Riley Sorenson and receiver River Cracraft.
“He obviously wasn’t happy with where he was and me and River were just like maybe you should see if you can come up here,” said Sorenson, who played with Begg and Cracraft at Santa Margarita High School in Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif. “So we were up here, we could help him out, we could show him around and we were his friends so he would have someone to hang out with.”
After reuniting with his high school teammates, Begg did more than hangout with Cracraft and Sorenson. He trained alongside each of them.
After arriving at WSU in January, Begg spent all of spring practice working out with Sorenson and the rest of the offensive linemen. In his free time, however, he trained with the receivers in offseason 7-on-7 workouts, a position he hadn’t played since his freshman year in high school.
When fall camp rolled around the coaches told him that he would train with the inside receivers. The Y position is usually the domain of the small, quick receivers so Begg forms a funny sight lining up at the back of the line of diminutive pass-catchers.
He has to play the position uniquely as well, although not originally since the NFL’s Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham made tight ends split wide an uncommon, but not rare sight.
“I have to run my routes differently, use my hands more and be physical because I’m obviously not going to be a burner,” Begg said.
While Cracraft and Robert Lewis earn their keep at Y receiver on quick slants and mesh routes across the middle, Beggs has made his running up vertical seams between similarly-sized linebackers, placing stress on the defense by drawing defenders that don’t relish the thought of tackling the 6-foot-5, 253-pound freshman barreling toward them.
Whether or not it’s a sight that will ever been seen on game day in Martin Stadium is anyone’s guess.
“I have no idea what the coaches are thinking, to be honest,” Begg said. “I’m just hoping down by the goal line, stuff like that, big man stuff.”
If he puts on weight it’s just as likely that Begg will be back among the giants on the line, although which side of the line also remains to be seen. Even if his body cooperates, the versatile freshman could end up at any of a few positions, including ones he hasn’t tried out with the Cougars just yet.
“Well I think in the end probably tight end, (defensive) end or outside linebacker is where he’ll end up,” Leach said. “I don’t know which one but we’ve got to get him stronger and faster, which, that’s just going to happen.”