Washington State’s Kyle Sweet catches a pass during an Aug. 16 practice session in Pullman. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Washington State’s Kyle Sweet catches a pass during an Aug. 16 practice session in Pullman. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Plenty of new faces on Cougars’ depth chart

WSU will replace 13 starters from last season.

  • Thursday, August 16, 2018 5:38pm
  • Sports

By Theo Lawson

The Spokesman-Review

As a team replacing seven starters on offense, five on defense and a longtime placekicker, Washington State has had to make plenty of edits to its depth chart this offseason.

The school won’t release the final draft until the week of the season opener against Wyoming — and plenty could change between then and now — but based on observations from watching the Cougars through the spring and 10 days of fall camp, here’s a crack at predicting the two-deep (three-deep at wide receiver), with explanations for each position.

Offense

Quarterback

QB1: Gardner Minshew, sr.

QB2: Trey Tinsley, jr.

QB3: Anthony Gordon, jr.

QB4: Cammon Cooper, fr.

Explanation: If Minshew’s objective coming to Pullman was to make it appear as if he’s a four-year vet in the Washington State Air Raid — rather than the 10-day-old rookie he is — the East Carolina graduate transfer has been largely successful. Minshew’s progression is noticeable on an almost-daily basis, his command and control of the huddle have been evident since day one and the most important audition of his preseason camp — Friday’s scrimmage in Pullman — also coincided with his most impressive day with the Cougars to this point. He hasn’t won the job, per se, but if he does we’ll look back at Friday as a turning point.

Running back

RB1: James Williams, jr.

RB2: Max Borghi, fr.

RB3: Keith Harrington, sr.

Explanation: WSU will probably give running back the classic “or” treatment when the week-one depth chart is printed — along the lines of 1A) Williams 1B) Borghi and 2) Harrington. The Cougars haven’t established a “feature” back among this group, which isn’t a problem considering WSU deployed three of them last season and still got 2,133 yards of production. Excitement for Borghi seems to be justified, and it’s hard to imagine Williams regressing as a junior, but the position is definitely on the thin side and could be in trouble if one or both backs go down at any point.

Wide receivers

X WR1: Tay Martin, soph.

X WR2: Rodrick Fisher, fr.

X WR3: Drue Jackson, fr.

Y WR1: Kyle Sweet, sr.

Y WR2: Jamire Calvin, soph.

Y WR3: Brandon Arconado, jr.

H WR1: Renard Bell, soph.

H WR2: Robert Lewis, sr.

H WR3: Travell Harris, fr.

Z WR1: Dezmon Patmon, jr.

Z WR2: Easop Winston Jr., jr.

Z WR3: Calvin Jackson Jr., jr.

Explanation: The Cougars are so well off at receiver that they can probably afford one injury at each of the four positions without much of a drop-off in production. Leach uses a steadfast eight-player rotation at receiver, but circumstances in 2017 — Robert Lewis’ injury, Tavares Martin’s suspension and then dismissal and Isaiah Johnson-Mack’s departure — forced the Cougars to pull a few of their third-stringers up at different points of the season, which could be a silver lining for players like Arconado and Jackson Jr., who wouldn’t have a problem cracking the depth chart elsewhere and could produce for WSU given the opportunity.

Offensive line

LT1: Andre Dillard, sr.

LT2: Cade Beresford, fr.

LG1: Josh Watson, soph.

LG2: Liam Ryan, soph.

C1: Fred Mauigoa, jr.

C2: Brian Greene, fr.

RG1: Robert Valencia, sr.

RG2: Christian Haangana, soph.

RT1: Abraham Lucas, fr.

RT2: Jarrett Kingston, fr.

Explanation: The wall of blockers protecting the quarterback has just 42 games of experience under its belt, and 29 of those belong to Dillard, the third-year tackle who anchors the left side of the Cougars’ offensive line. In a post-Cole Madison/Cody O’Connell era, the front five may not be quite as feeble as it appears at first glance. Dillard is a potential All-American, center Mauigoa is a second-year starter and Rimington Award watch list candidate, right guard Valencia is a former four-star junior college prospect and right tackle Lucas, an Archbishop Murphy High School graduate, is a 6-6 sequoia tree who’s gained 60 pounds since arriving on campus and possesses many Dillard characteristics. The Cougars are still seeking clarity at left guard, where they feel comfortable with Watson, a Cascade High School graduate, and Ryan. Valencia’s played a lot of right tackle, as well, and he could fill in — and Haangana would take over at right guard — if something happened to Lucas.

DEFENSE

Defensive line

DE1: Nnamdi Oguayo, jr.

DE2: Will Rodgers III, soph.

NT1: Taylor Comfort, sr.

NT2: Pono Lolohea, jr.

DT1: Nick Begg, sr.

DT2: Hunter Mattox, jr.

Explanation: This group is hard to gauge or predict with all of the packages, schemes and formations the Cougars employ up front. One thing is for sure: Oguayo will be at the center of everything that’s done on the defensive line now that the Cougars can’t depend on the quarterback-harassing skills of Hercules Mata’afa or the brute strength of Daniel Ekuale. WSU should also feel good about Oguayo’s backup, Rodgers III, who’s had a few studly moments of his own this camp filling in for Oguayo. Lolohea has the size and skill set to overtake Comfort, a Sultan High School graduate, at nose tackle, but the former walk-on has been able to lean on fundamentals and experience to cling to the spot.

Linebackers

MLB1: Peyton Pelluer, sr.

MLB2: Justus Rogers, soph.

WLB1: Jahad Woods, soph.

WLB2: Dillon Sherman, soph.

Rush LB1: Willie Taylor III, fr.

Rush LB2: Tristan Brock, jr.

Explanation: Woods, Rogers and Sherman were supposed to be understudies to Pelluer, Isaac Dotson and Nate Derider last year, but when injuries claimed all three of WSU’s senior linebackers, the youngsters stepped into spots they probably didn’t expect to inherit until this fall. The Cougars go three-deep at “Mike” and “Will” spots, and players not included above such as Dominick Silvels and Fa’vae Fa’vae will hear their names called at some point. The loss of Frankie Luvu at Rush linebacker looms large, and presumed starter Chima Onyeukwu hasn’t participated in recent practices. Taylor III, a redshirt freshman who plays with a high motor, and Brock, a walk-on who’s spent time on the defensive line, will fill the gap for the time being.

Secondary

CB1: Darrien Molton, sr.

CB2: Marcus Strong, jr.

FS1: Skyler Thomas, soph

FS2: Deion Singleton, jr.

SS1: Jalen Thompson, jr.

SS2: Chad Davis Jr., soph.

CB1: Sean Harper Jr., sr.

CB2: George Hicks III, soph.

Nickel 1: Hunter Dale, sr.

Nickel 2: Patrick Nunn, fr.

Explanation: There’s a significant gap in experience between the ones and the twos in the defensive secondary. Molton, Thomas, Thompson, Harper Jr. and Dale have combined to play in 110 games, while their backups have appeared in just 32. No position group on the team was more affected by the offseason coaching shakeups, which brought in new safeties coach Kendrick Shaver, new cornerbacks coach Darcel McBath and new defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys. Nonetheless, the secondary should be in good hands this year if no long-term injuries are sustained, and the future looks promising, too, with Nunn, Halid Djibril and Tyrese Ross.

Special teams

PK1: Jack Crane, soph.

PK2: Blake Mazza, fr.

P1: Oscar Draguicevich, jr.

P2: Oliver Graybar, kr.

KR1: Travell Harris

KR 2: Jamire Calvin

PR 1: Travell Harris

PR2: Jamire Calvin

Explanation: Crane’s consistency during spring camp gives him a slight edge over Mazza and Archbishop Murphy High School graduate Ryan Henderson, who’ve both pushed the redshirt sophomore this fall. Punter is more of a coin-flip. Draguicevich, the son of a former pro soccer player, has a big leg, but Graybar is a former Arizona punter who transferred to Rhode Island and subsequently set the school’s single-season record with 3,207 yards and an average of 39.6 yards-per-punt. Harris may not sneak into the receiver rotation, but he’ll be used heavily in the return game — potentially in punt and kick returns.

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