PULLMAN – On Washington State’s overhauled offensive line, three gamers seem to have locked up beginning roles.
One of them is aware of for positive the place he’ll be stationed. One is settling in at a brand new place, and one other is determining the place he suits finest.
“We want to keep mixing and matching, and finding the right combination,” first-year Cougs coach Jake Dickert stated final week.
Fourth-year sophomore Konner Gomness, an eight-game starter at middle final season, has drawn regular reward from Cougar coaches and teammates throughout spring camp for his burgeoning management qualities and constant play within the coronary heart of the trenches. Barring any main setbacks, Gomness gained’t budge on the first-string middle spot.
Among WSU’s two different examined returners up entrance, there’s been some motion.
Jarrett Kingston and Ma’ake Fifita, each of whom began on the guard positions final season, have spent the primary three weeks of spring ball getting accustomed to new positions.
Kingston, a fifth-year junior and the Cougars’ high left guard over the previous two years, shifted to left deal with within the offseason. The 6-foot-5, 300-pounder has been sidelined lately at camp resulting from an unspecified harm, however when wholesome, Kingston supplies a blind-side anchor in WSU’s pass-heavy new offense.
“Jarrett really gives us that (model) left tackle, that athleticism,” Dickert stated after apply Thursday morning at Rogers Field. “We’ll kind of see how all the pieces form, as far as where Ma’ake is best. He’s learning and growing a lot on the outside. His progress through eight practices has been really, really good. He can do it. He gives us that ‘flex.’ I think he’s a little more comfortable inside, but at the end of the day, he’s going to have to be (flexible) and he’s smart enough to play multiple positions.”
Fifita, who shared snaps at proper guard for the primary half of 2021 earlier than capturing beginning duties for the ultimate 5 video games, has largely been lining up at proper deal with with WSU’s first unit this spring. He noticed some motion at left deal with final season.
Fifita started the 2021 marketing campaign second on the Cougs’ depth chart at proper guard behind Cade Beresford, who transferred to Boise State late within the season. Fifita’s potential impressed former coach Nick Rolovich early on. The Everett product adopted a big rotational position by Week 2 and performed wholesome minutes each sport the remainder of the 12 months.
At 6-5 and 302 kilos, the fourth-year sophomore carries his weight effectively and reveals excellent qualities of a deal with – a mix of agility and energy.
Though Fifita and Kingston seem to be the favorites to start out on the deal with positions in 2022, Dickert is retaining his choices open.
“We’re going to have to have some multiple guys,” he stated final week. “Ma’ake is learning at tackle and what that means, playing in more space. … You’ll see that quite a bit with those guys rotating around, even Kingston playing a little guard. What’s our best five? We still gotta work to find that combination.”
No WSU place group suffered a higher blow to its depth chart after the 2021 season than the offensive line.
Abraham Lucas is headed to the professional ranks after beginning 42 video games at proper deal with throughout a embellished Coug profession. He didn’t enable a sack final 12 months and is projected by ESPN to be chosen within the second or third spherical of the NFL draft, which begins April 28. Liam Ryan, a 42-game starter at left deal with, additionally wrapped up his lengthy keep in Pullman, and senior middle Brian Greene transferred to Michigan State following an injury-derailed 2021 season.
The Cougars’ outlook at deal with improved Thursday, when WSU introduced that former Northern Colorado standout Grant Stephens had signed with this system. The 6-4, 300-pound senior began for the FCS Bears at proper deal with for 2 seasons and was named to the All-Big Sky second workforce final 12 months.
Until he arrives, the expertise is scarce behind – and beside – Kingston, Fifita and Gomness.
Redshirt freshman Christian Hilborn is holding down first-string proper guard at spring camp. He appeared in two video games final season, filling in at proper deal with within the 2021 finale for Lucas, who opted out of the Sun Bowl. Hilborn’s first begin was one to overlook. He was benched after a tough first quarter.
Sophomore Rodrick Tialavea is shouldering many of the first-team spring reps at left guard. He was a special-teamer final season.
Brock Dieu made his collegiate debut within the Cougs’ Sun Bowl loss to Central Michigan on Dec. 31 in El Paso, Texas. He fared effectively in aid of Fifita at proper guard – Fifita spelled Hilborn at deal with. Dieu is Gomness’ spring-camp backup at middle.
“We put a lot on the center. Konner and Brock are really controlling protections, (identifying defenses) in the run game,” Dickert stated. “Those two guys have done a good job of really standing out to me with leadership, with energy, with effort, and I think you hear their voice. They’re commanding the offensive line like we need ’em to, and that’ll be a progression as we keep going.”
Jack Wilson is a reserve to look at on the deal with place. The 6-11 junior, a former basketball participant at Oregon State and Idaho, has earned a few shout-outs from Dickert.
“This is the first time he’s really had an opportunity to learn and grow at the O-line position,” Dickert stated.
First-year offensive coordinator Eric Morris, who’s main the set up of an Air Raid system, provided his ideas Tuesday on the Cougs’ new-look O-line.
“I’ve been surprised about our pass protection. It’s a little better than I expected with all the youth we have,” he stated. “Losing four guys is always hard and we’re moving some people around, putting Kingston at tackle. He’s been a guard his entire life. They’ve done a really nice job in pass pro, but we still have to work on some of the gap-scheme running stuff. They just haven’t done it very much.”
WSU’s massive males bought an earful from O-line coach Clay McGuire on Thursday after a very one-sided workforce session by which the Cougs’ veteran defensive entrance clogged working lanes and stuffed a number of performs.
“There’s a physicality piece that I know coach McGuire would like to continue to see,” Dickert stated. “You heard him today. He’s rolling through it. We need to be physical up front to be able to move some people off the ball.”
Notes from Day 8 of WSU spring camp
Multiple notables sidelined
WSU practiced and not using a handful of offensive standouts, together with Kingston, slot Lincoln Victor, working again Nakia Watson and out of doors receiver De’Zhaun Stribling.
Minor accidents opened the door for reserves and youthful gamers to shine. Dickert singled out freshman working again Djouvensky Schlenbaker, outdoors receivers Anderson Grover and CJ Moore, and offensive tackles Wilson and Fa’alili Fa’amoe – a redshirt freshman who was lately transformed from defensive deal with.
“At 6:15 this morning, I was running around yelling about the opportunity that it’s going to be for some of our guys,” Dickert stated. “I know they’re not farm guys, but if you cut the head off a chicken, that chicken still runs. We can’t stop. … It’s gotta be a next-man-up mentality. That’s the standard, the consistency of mindset we’re striving for.”
Backup slots rising
Reserve inside receivers Orion Peters and Drake Owen have produced electrical highlights at camp and each appear to be making a case for reps this season.
“Orion Peters really sticks out as a guy right now that’s pushing for some really, really heavy playing time,” Morris stated Tuesday. “I like his mental makeup. I like his toughness and his route running, and his quickness. Another guy that’s doing well is Drake Owen. He’s coming out and has had a great camp. We have some big shoes to fill from the two we lost (Travell Harris and Calvin Jackson Jr.).”
Peters, a redshirt freshman speedster from Los Angeles, dazzled in area final weekend in WSU’s first scrimmage. Owen, a junior and second-year Cougar who previously performed at Division II Central Washington, redshirted final season after placing collectively a stable fall camp.
“There’s a lot of opportunity out there,” Owen stated, noting that the Air Raid may function as many as eight pass-catchers in its rotation. “You gotta be ready when your number is called.”