Washington State Football: 4 Burning Questions for the Cougars' Spring Game

Burning Questions for Washington State's Spring Game

4/21/14 in NCAAF   |   chris901   |   24 respect

Oct 12, 2013; Pullman, WA, USA; Washington State Cougars head coach Mike Leach reacts after a call on the field against the Oregon State Beavers during the first half at Martin Stadium. The Beavers beat the Cougars 52-24. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY SportsQuestions swirl around the Washington State football program. The team could continue its ascent in the Pac-12, or it could fall short of mediocrity and lose the progress it has made during the past year.

The Cougars’ success this season will hinge on a few different factors, and whether they are heading in the right direction will become apparent at the Crimson and Gray game on Saturday.

1. Will Tyler Bruggman Make a Case to Start? 

Although Connor Halliday looks like the favorite to start at quarterback because of his veteran status on the team, Bruggman remains a novel option for the position. Bruggman has taken plenty of snaps in practice and is no stranger to coach Mike Leach’s playbook. He also wouldn’t be with the Cougars if Leach did not intend to use him at some point. 

All it takes is one slip by Halliday to cause Leach to replace him with Bruggman. The same thing happened when Halliday competed with the older Jeff Tuel in 2012. In a start against the Oregon State Beavers, Halliday was pulled in favor of Tuel after throwing multiple interceptions in the game. The same could happen if Halliday struggles again, but this time Bruggman will be his replacement. Let’s not forget that Halliday led the nation in interceptions last season with 22. 

One good performance in the spring game by Bruggman could keep him in consideration for the starting job heading into fall camp. 

2. How Will the Cougars Replace Deone Bucannon?

WSU has a veteran pass rushing group with players like Xavier Cooper, Kalafitoni Pole, and Darryl Monroe returning among other experienced members of last year’s team. However, the secondary looks bare after losing safety Bucannon and cornerback Damante Horton. The possible replacements also look relatively young compared to what was once an older and wiser cast.

Bucannon’s brother, David, is a redshirt sophomore this year and could step in to fill Deone’s shoes at the safety position. Without playing experience to help him, it could be a rough transition period at first. 

Sophomore cornerback Daquawn Brown is a high-profile option to replace Horton. As a freshman, Brown intercepted two passes, which was less than only Bucannon and Horton. The Cougars could ask Brown to lead the secondary this season, and based on his performance last season, he is ready. 

3. Who Will Be the Primary Receiver?

Halliday spread the wealth around the field last season, connecting with a total of 16 different players. Gabe Marks was Halliday’s favorite target by far, finishing the 2013 campaign with over 800 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. Vince Mayle and Dominique Williams each caught seven touchdown passes as well, and both they and Marks will be available for Halliday to utilize again this season. If those weapons aren’t enough for this Cougar offense, River Cracraft now has a year under his belt after starting as a freshman in a prominent wide receiver role. Cracraft caught 46 balls for more than 600 yards and found the end zone three times. All of these receivers will likely be targeted plenty of times during the spring game, and each one is capable of becoming the favorite target in the fall as well. 

4. Will the Run Become More Common in the Offense?

Leach will be stubborn at best if he doesn't take advantage of the talent he has at the running back position. At this point, it is just a matter of who will receive the most touches this season. The spring game will provide a good preview of how the Cougars plan to attack defenses with the run. 

Marcus Mason, Teondray Caldwell, Theron West, and new recruit Squally Canada are some of the names that stand out under the running back section on the roster. All of these players can and should help the Cougars improve on last season’s team performance in terms of the run.

WSU finished last in the Pac-12 conference with 53.4 yards per game on the ground and 2.9 yards per carry. To make matters worse, the Cougars ranked 123rd in the nation with 243 rushing attempts for 694 yards. In order to take the program to the next level, the Cougars must run more this season, and the first step to developing a well-oiled and balanced offensive attack is practicing those plays in the spring game.

Notify me by email about comments that follow mine. Preview