The Cougars are hoping that this fall camp is the start of something bigger at WSU
LEWISTON, Idaho – Legacy.
The fact that this word is even being tossed around at Washington State’s fall camp perhaps perfectly encapsulates how much higher expectations are for the Cougars this season, as they come off a 9-4 campaign and their first bowl win in more than a decade.
The Cougars started fall camp at Sacajawea Junior High School on Saturday afternoon, and while they’re all determined not to get ahead of themselves, there’s a sense that this group wants to do big things this season.
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“The nine-win season was awesome, but we’ve gotta put that in the past, build upon it and move forward,” said junior quarterback Luke Falk. “Now’s the time to start a legacy at Washington State. A bunch of guys came here and we’ve always talked about how ‘we want to build a legacy.’ Well, here’s our opportunity right now.”
That “bunch of guys” includes Falk, linebackers Peyton Pelluer and Isaac Dotson, running backs Gerard Wicks and Jamal Morrow, linemen Cole Madison and Carlos Freeman, and the confident, brash Gabe Marks, who is now – as he puts it – the “old dog” in the receivers room.
“We were like (Mike) Leach’s first real recruiting class,” said Dotson, a junior. “So it feels good, now that we’re the older guys, we’ve seen the culture flip around and seen what it takes to be successful on the field.”
The Cougars spun their bowl win into offseason momentum, and they now take a sense of urgency and heightened competitiveness into camp.
On the defensive side of the ball, Alex Grinch enters his second year as coordinator, and is already building on the high standards he set the year before, when the Cougars tripled the number of turnovers they forced, and finished the season averaging 27.6 points per game – 11 less than they averaged in the 2014 season.
“The secondary is just miles ahead of where they were last year and years before,” said Marks, a senior. “Grinch has come in and just changed the whole philosophy and mindset of that defense and helped them take it to another level.”
The Cougars practiced in only helmets and jerseys on Day 1, which makes it difficult to accurately judge talent. But some of the new freshmen are already showing promise. Dezmon Patmon, a 6-foot-4, 207-pound outside receiver from Patrick Henry (San Diego) High earned stellar reviews from the older players and the coaches.
“Dezmon Patmon, his first day out here, he’s catching deep balls and stuff,” Marks said.
Grant Porter (6-0, 178 pounds) from Upland High School in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. also stood out at outside receiver, along with Isaiah Johnson, who enrolled in January.
Defensively, early enrollee Jalen Thompson is still the main contender for the open safety spot next to Shalom Luani.
“We’re excited about Jalen. Obviously, he’s a freshman, and we don’t want to put too much on him, but he showed up in the spring and attacked spring football like a vet and I think he has a chance to establish himself as a starter in the program,” Grinch said.
D’Jimon Jones, a defensive back from Federal Way, also stood out in one-on-one drills against the receivers, even holding his own against Marks on a couple of occasions.
X receiver fiercely contested
Offensively, Leach said the hottest position battle is currently unfolding at the X receiver position, where Tavares Martin Jr, Patmon and C.J. Dimry are all fighting for reps and playing time.
“Tavares Martin did some good things at the other side last year and he looked good today, and both big-bodied guys – C.J. Dimry and Dezmon Patmon – besides the fact that they’re big, both looked good with their ball skills and things,” Leach said.
Dimry, specifically, stood out because at 6-foot-5, 201 pounds, he’s the biggest target the Cougars have for Falk to throw to. He just has to stay healthy. Dimry transferred to WSU from Saddleback College in 2015, but did not play last season because he got hurt early on in both spring practice and fall camp.
“He’s Stretch Armstrong right now,” Falk said. “Just throw it up there, and he’ll get it. He did pretty good. He made it through his first practice so that’s a huge accomplishment and we’re gonna celebrate tonight with him.”