Nov 16, 2013; Tucson, AZ, USA; Washington State Cougars wide receiver River Cracraft (84) scores a touchdown as he is defended by Arizona Wildcats free safety Jourdon Grandon (26) during the third quarter at Arizona Stadium. The Cougars beat the Wildcats 24-17. Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports
This time last year the Cougs had four WRs set to join the team. Anticipation abounded rightly toward Rob Lewis and Vince Mayle, but there was a surprise in the works for Wazzu in the form of overlooked River Cracraft. We heard stories about this kid throughout camp: great hands, fearless to a fault, selfless, and best of all, he was excited to put a block on the defensive backs.
Let’s remember that only one BCS conference coach saw something in Cracaft, Mike Leach. River entertained offers from Nevada and UNLV, but knew his destination was Pullman for certain in June of 2012. His joy for the game and his desire to prove himself make him an ideal Coug.
Fun stuff happened when #84 found the ball in his hands in 2013. River has an aptitude as a possession receiver, grabbing balls across the middle, showing confidence in the Pac-12 officiating that can only belong to a true freshman. When he finds himself in the open field, an extraordinary elusiveness takes over, often to his detriment.
We love Cracraft, but we find ourselves concerned as well, mainly for his continued health. Hopefully River watched Deone Bucannon closely this last season, and noticed that Pac-12 players can bring some heat. Rodney Harrison said in an interview today that there is no more enjoyable sound than a WR lying on the ground gurgling with pain (paraphrase). A targeting penalty is fine in theory, but 15 yards is not much solace when you are lying on the ground with broken ribs, a concussion, or worse.
Additionally, we know he ran track in high school, but defensive backs are not the high hurdles. He has some serious hops, but every time he decided to hurdle someone for an additional yard we had to hold our breath waiting for an injury. That did not happen in 2013, but Leach must find Cracraft’s reins.
River joined a graduate program in terms of the Air Raid offense last year, and succeed beyond expectation on talent and hard work, but the expectation bar has now been set. We will expect more and more as his time in Pullman, but for 2013, we will grade conservatively with an A-.