The Cougars released their first depth chart of the season on Monday. WSU will open the season against Eastern Washington on Saturday at Martin Stadium
Not a whole lot, actually.
Washington State’s Mike Leach — like many coaches — isn’t a big fan of depth charts. They’re released merely as a procedural necessity for the media. But they aren’t always accurate.
Still, here’s what we can glean from the first WSU depth chart of the season that was released Monday afternoon. The Cougs will play EWU at Martin Stadium Saturday in their season opener.
Four true freshmen and two JuCo transfers will probably see significant action for the Cougs this year — another indication of how WSU is still building up its depth.
— I’m surprised to not find James Williams listed at the running back position. He had a tremendous spring, and did enough in fall camp to spur Keith Harrington’s switch from running back to inside receiver. It’s still pretty much a certainty that he will feature in the offense this year. But juniors Jamal Morrow and Gerard Wicks got the starting nod nonetheless. Morrow is considered WSU’s most complete back, while Wicks is a bigger, more bruising weapon. (Williams is, by the way, listed as an option at kick returner.
— The offensive line has a distinct starting five, but the second team is a little more fluid. They are young — four of the five second team offensive linemen are freshmen or redshirt freshmen. So I would say that OL depth is still a concern. It’s especially unusual to have a true freshman (center Fred Mauigoa) in the two-deep on the O-line. Coaches generally prefer to give freshmen linemen time to develop by having them take a redshirt year.
— Freshman Isaiah Johnson is being groomed to be the next Gabe Marks at Z-receiver. He’ll spell Marks (on the rare occasions that Marks deigns to come off the field) this year and learn from the Cougs’ veteran.
— Meanwhile, the Cougs have three different options at X receiver, the position that Leach called the “most competitive” early in fall camp. Tavares Martin has made tremendous strides from 2015, freshman Dezmon Patmon has great hands and showed up this summer ready to compete. Meanwhile, senior C.J. Dimry is finally healthy and hoping to show that his height and athleticism can be an asset.
— At WLB, Isaac Dotson has beaten out Frankie Luvu and should work very well alongside his roommate, Peyton Pelluer. Dotson is highly respected by the coaches as a smart, athletic player. He played in several different spots last season even though he spent most of his time at safety, and if he can stay healthy, he should fill in seamlessly at WLB.
— Like the O-line, the defensive line has a solid trio of starters, but they desperately need to get the backups some experience.
— In the defensive secondary, freshman Jalen Thompson should have no problem holding his own. He’s been with the first team defense since he joined the team in spring ball and looks to be the 2016 version of Darrien Molton in terms of being a mature freshman who showed up in Pullman in competition-shape.
— Shalom Luani is listed as a starter on this depth chart, and he’ll most definitely start at free safety at some point this season. But his status for this Saturday’s home opener is still to be determined. Luani was held out of practice last week after he was arrested on Wednesday and charged with assault.
— Junior college transfer Robert Taylor will be a Swiss Army knife for the Cougs this year. And that versatility is especially valuable in light of Luani’s current situation. Taylor has taken reps at safety, pushed Treshon Broughton at cornerback and will also take his turn returning punts and kicks. Then again, would you expect anything less from a guy whose Twitter handle is @RunitbackRob? He averaged 11.6 yards per punt return at City College of San Francisco last season and returned one punt for a touchdown.