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April 20, 2006With spring practice over and done, it's time to take a look back at what went well, which positions were firmed up, and where the questions remain as the team heads for summer. First up, the offense :
Quarterback: Probably the most notable good thing about the end result of spring practice is the growth of Alex Brink as the undisputed starter and a major team leader. Brink spent last spring, summer, and the 2005 season well aware of Josh Swogger looming over his shoulder and the potential team divisions that resulted from his being named the 2005 starter over team captain Swogger. This go around, Brink had that added distraction removed and did a lot more settling into his role as The Guy. The team felt the same, electing Brink a team captain for 2006. If past performance of other Cougar quarterbacks who started as sophomores is any indicator, Brink is poised for a break through season this year as a junior.
The backup situation developed well. Gary Rogers showed improvement and looks to have cemented his spot as the number two QB. A surprising battle developed for the third team QB between Arkelon Hall and Cole Morgan with Morgan making a stronger run than expected. The battle for the third spot looks to pick up again in August with the winner hoping to see some game time in 2006.
Tight End: How about that Jed Collins? Collins is easily one of the most versatile athletes on the team and may have finally found a solid home at tight end after seeing time at linebacker and fullback. Collins made the transition when it became clear seniors Cody Boyd, Jesse Taylor, and junior JC transfer Jason Price would be out of spring contact drills. Collins stepped in and stepped up, doing well in scrimmages. With Boyd the established starter and Taylor a known factor, Collins looks to be a good third man for the tight end rotation. That's important for those two tight end formations and in case the injury bug bites like it did last year. The Cougar offense runs a lot more effectively when the tight ends are in the mix as weapons, and Collins gave the position a surprise boost.
Interior Offensive Line: The Cougs lost two starters and depth off the strong offensive line that helped make WSU a feared rushing team in 2005. Those positions needed filling in spring. The Cougars faced problems right off the bat as the injury bug bit early and hard. After two weeks of practice, it looked like the Cougars might come out of spring with more questions on the O-line than were there before. Players stepped in and up, and by the end of spring things were looking much better. Andy Roof developed well and solidified the right guard spot, taking the starting position off the "gotta worry about it" list for August. Coming into spring, Jacob McKinney looked to be a talented and well-regarded but depth buried tight end. With the O-line injuries early, McKinney was asked to move inside. McKinney impressed at guard backing up Roof and has the potential to carve himself out a good home on the interior line. At a listed 262, McKinney can add some weight and come into August with enough size for the Pac-10.
The open center position isn't totally clear, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. As expected, the competition was strong between experienced former walk-on senior Josh Duin and impressive redshirt freshman Kenny Alfred. Dan Rowlands was in the initial mix early as well. With Alfred missing time due to injury, Duin made the most of his opportunities. Going into August, Duin may have the slight edge over Alfred with the starter not likely to be named until late. Whoever comes out on top, the Cougars are winners because the position will be strong with a starter quality backup.