Mike Leach is looking for playmakers in year two as head coach of the Washington State Cougars to try and bring some success to the Palouse. While most of the attention will be paid to the quarterback competition between Connor Halliday and Austin Apodaca, the key to a turnaround at WSU may lie in the improvement of the wide receiving corps this spring, led by sophomore Gabe Marks.
Marks started to step up during his freshman season in 2012 following the messy departure of Marquess Wilson. He finished second on the team behind Wilson with 560 receiving yards and his 49 receptions ranked him third among receivers. He has embraced his role as the No. 1 receiver this offseason, working on his receiving skills and learning to use more than just his speed to beat defenses.
He’ll be leading a young group that has grown by leaps and bounds in Leach’s offense this spring. Juniors Isiah Myers and Kristoff Williams shined during spring scrimmages and could rise up the depth chart next fall to the No. 1 offensive unit. Leach singled out sophomore Dominique Williams for his work during the spring session and has been happy with the overall improvement of the entire position group.
For Washington State to flourish in Mike Leach’s offensive system, they have to have a group of receivers who are threats to score every time they touch the ball. That means they must be athletic and elusive with the ability to break tackles on the short, underneath routes that constitute the bulk of Leach’s playbook. Without the threat of the short passes becoming big gains, the long passes over the top will never develop consistently.
The Cougars are looking to make improvements in 2013 and they key to that improvement rests with the wide receivers. Can they blossom into the playmakers WSU needs them to be next fall?