Michael Crabtree. Of course when most Cougar fans think of the name around here, the image of him getting denied in the endzone of the NFC Championship Game comes immediately to mind. Or perhaps it’s the view of Richard Sherman extending his hand in search of a shake, only to find a big Crab-palm in his face. It’s actually quite a pleasant thought.
However when we are able to think about Crabtree a little bit more deeply (not too deep mind you, this is not that kind of conversation), we are able to remember that he played for our coach back at Texas Tech. At that point in time he was generally a full-grown man playing amongst little children on the gridiron, blessed to be playing in the most perfect offense to take advantage of his skill set and immense physical prowess for his position. Indeed, Mike Leach’s approach made Michael Crabtree a super-weapon in college.
Washington State currently possesses such a (potential) weapon themselves. His name is Vince Mayle and he is setting himself apart this Spring from the rest of the receivers. Of course Cal got a first-person perspective on Mayle last season:
Mayle was so big last season at 6’3 and around 240 lbs that every NFL board had him listed as a fullback. That’s right, a fullback at Washington State in a Mike Leach offense, that’s how different his measurables made him seem. This year he’s trimmed down to a Crabtree-esque 219 lbs, while increasing his speed. For the record Crabtree stands 6’1, 214 lbs, meaning Mayle is actually quite a bit taller in wide receiver terms when an NFL team will evaluate him.
Mayle has emerged as not only a top target, but a trusted favorite of Cougar quarterbacks, most notably Connor Halliday. The incumbent starting signal-caller said earlier this Spring that “Vince is a heck of a player, we’re gonna ride him the rest of the year.”
He didn’t say that Vince is coming on and he didn’t say they are going to ride him for the rest of the Spring. He specifically said “we’re (or probably more to the point “I’m”) going to ride him the rest of the year.” I reiterate because that’s no small comment and it’s likely no empty promise.
After a slower than expected 2013 Spring that saw him drop a lot of balls and a continuing struggle to catch up to the speed of the FBS game, Mayle came on strong about halfway through the season. In fact it was that Cal game that really turned Mayle into a noticeable target. He finished the season fourth on WSU’s roster with 42 receptions for 539 yards, but finished tied atop the leaderboard for touchdowns with seven.
Expect that number to take a big bump, although almost certainly not along the lines of Crabtree’s ridiculous and untouchable 134 catch, 1,962 yard, 22 touchdown freshman season in 2007. But Mayle definitely has an opportunity to come a lot closer to Crabtree’s sophomore season numbers of 97 receptions for 1,116 yards and 19 scores.
We’ll see how Halliday and Mayle gel going into the end of Spring and throughout the Summer and Fall camp, but it sure sets up to be a huge season for both if they can stay healthy. Look for Vince Mayle to look like the reincarnation of Michael Crabtree for Washington State in 2014.