The Mike Leach Air Raid offense at WSU is set to make another huge jump in 2014 with a combination of veteran experience at both quarterback and wide receiver, but will there be room for a ‘new blood infusion?
Early in the process, Leach and Co. have made it very clear that they are not shy when it comes to playing underclassmen that earn their spot in the rotation, regardless of the position but especially at receiver. What does that mean for freshmen and sophomores trying to break in and break out in 2014? Essentially, nothing.
The Coug wide receiver corps is loaded with veteran leadership and among the group there is a bevy of not only talent, but also diversity. The team of returning receivers that had at least 37 receptions last season looks like this:
|Yards Per Game
|Jr. Gabe Marks
|Jr. Dom Williams
|So. River Cracraft
|Sr. Vince Mayle
|Sr. Kristoff Williams
|Sr. Isiah Myers
|Sr. Rickey Galvin
We had to factor in Brett Bartolone, who just could not stomp the injury bug last season and ended the year with only 10 catches. He was however Jeff Tuel‘s favorite target in 2012 and got some love from current fifth year senior Connor Halliday as well, hauling in a team-best 53 catches and adding four touchdowns as a freshman. Also, a more veteran kid that made a lot of noise in the Spring was junior Drew Loftus, who offers decent size and can be found making plays in Coug-practice whenever he finds his way onto the field.
So you can see that the Cougs are simply loaded at receiver and the eight above will probably garner a majority of the playing time. However this coaching staff has some new options that could jump up and make immediate impacts in 2014 and the past two years (Bartolone, Cracraft) have seen kids make major impacts as true-freshmen. Mike Leach likes to use 8-10 receivers in his rotations (generally 8 but it will be difficult not to find room for two more this year).
Topping the list as one of those kids is Robert Lewis, a kid whom the staff was really excited about going into last season, but due to some inconsistency issues decided to redshirt as a freshman. He’s small at 5’9″, 160 lbs, but he’s got DeAnthony Thomas-like quicks and thus would be difficult to keep out of the rotation if he could just prove he can catch the rock consistently.
The other kid to keep an eye on is true-freshman Calvin Green, who graduated early from high school and put on a show in the Spring Game. Green uses his body extremely well to shield off defenders in traffic and is an exceptional route-runner for a freshman. There is still room for improvement here but after seeing him this Spring I can’t see the staff not finding a spot in the rotation for him.
And finally, if you’re wondering about Texas A&M transfer and redshirt freshman Sebastian LaRue, first he has to clear his waivers from the NCAA. If he did that he could potentially factor in, but I think he’d probably be more of a candidate at cornerback this season. I definitely see him moving back to receiver in 2015 though, when there will be room for him to make more of an impact.
Other freshman receivers that I see redshirting this season include Kieth Harrington, Zaire Andre and Barry Ware.
It’s going to be a fun year out at receiver folks, which is a reason I think Connor Halliday has a chance to do something special in 2014. More on that in an upcoming piece. For now, we can dream of these kids making lots of touchdown grabs in the new crimson end zones of Martin.