Spring game's don't necessarily mean much in the grand scheme of things, but for the players, this is really the last impact they can make in front of the coaches before offseason workouts and fall practice. With the Crimson and Gray Game coming up, I have a few things you should focus in on if you're a Washington State football fan.
1. Tyler Hilinski
He's the backup quarterback behind Luke Falk, so you might think this is meaningless come the fall, but is it? Remember, Falk got his career started because of a season-ending injury to Connor Halliday his freshman year, so he might, very well, be needed in 2017. Also, he's been tremendous in two spring scrimmages completing 67 percent of his passes for almost 400 yards and throwing eight touchdowns to one interception. Falk will be the starter for the first game of the year against Montana State, he's a Heisman hopeful for a reason, but listen to this reaction from Mike Leach when discussing Hilinksi's play and the status of the quarterback position.
"He does a goo job. In fact, (Hilinski and Falk) are both neck-and-neck right now. I'll consider starting anybody over anybody. You have to win and earn your job every day, but they're both playing real well."
Again, this isn't to indicate Falk is losing his job, but it let's you know how good Hilinski has been. It's comforting to know the Cougs would be in good hands if anything happens to Falk. In addition, the Cougs will be in good hands next year when Falk graduates.
2. Wide Receivers--including Easop Winston and Dezmon Patmon
All right, number two is fairly obvious with the receiving group, but I'm going to get a little more specific here. First, I want to see how JUCO transfer Easop Winston plays. He was ballin' out Saturday in the second scrimmage of the spring for 10 catches, 128 yards and two touchdowns. He's still transitioning to life in Pullman, but he could be a huge addition for Mike Leach and Luke Falk in the offense.
"We've tried to get him as many reps as we can because of him being new and so we can see him," Leach said. "We also need to get him in shape. He's got really soft hands. He's an elusive guy--plays the ball in the air well. He's gotten better and better as time has gone on for a guy that just got here."
In addition to Winston, I want to see how Dezmon Patmon looks. The sophomore is built like a truck sitting at 6 feet and 4 inches tall packing 211 pounds. He's almost an exact replica of former Coug Marquess Wilson who has carved out a nice career in the NFL. Leach has been pushing him hard ever since setting foot on campus and maybe it's all coming together.
"He's doing good. I think he's still got a ways to go," Leach said. "He's starting to put together several good days in a row and still has a lot of upside because he's a big, strong guy who runs well."
3. Defensive Pressure
Finally, I need to see how this defensive line looks. There will be some pretty flimsy sacks in the spring game as the quarterbacks won't get roughed up too much, but I want to see them force some type of pressure up front. The Cougs only earned 20 sacks last year and their tackles for a loss numbers were way down when compared to 2015. I mean, Hercules Mata'afa can only do so much up front, so let's see what defensive coordinator Alex Grinch shows us on Saturday.
The spring game kicks off Saturday at 2 p.m. from Joe Albi Stadium in Spokane.
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