WSU Football: Cougar Offense Looks Promising for 2009 (Part Three)

Lew WrightSenior Writer IAugust 29, 2009

TEMPE, AZ - NOVEMBER 13:  A Washington State Cougars helmet showing the initials of Pat Tillman next to the American flag during the Arizona State Sun Devils against Washington State Cougars Pac-10 game at Sun Devil Stadium/Frank Kush Field on November 13, 2004 in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)

After taking a look at the Washington State Cougar offensive line and running game, next up is a preview of the guys running pass routes and throwing blocks.

The wide receivers and tight ends are a youthful group preparing to make their presence known on the football field.

In football, size matters. Let's look at the big guys first.

The tight end position is the least experienced group on the WSU roster this fall. It will be all about living up to potential for Coach Rich Rasmussen's troops.

Tony Thompson is the lone player with decent Pac-10 experience. He's a 6'2" 241 pound fifth-year senior known more for his blocking last season. Following a lot of work over the off-season, Thompson is ready to show his versatility.

The rest of the group is bigger and younger.

A couple of student/athletes who have looked good in fall camp are junior JC transfer Zach Tatman and junior Aaron Gehring. Both are 6'5" and in the 250-pound range. Both will likely see plenty of playing time.

Ironically, Gehring's father played at Eastern Washington, where Coach Paul Wulff was coaching prior to taking over the program at Washington State.

The future of the tight end position for the Cougs is with redshirt freshmen Skylar Stormo and Andrei Lintz. Both have looked very sharp in fall camp and may work their way ahead of Thompson and Tatman on the depth chart.

If history means anything, Coach Wulff would like to run the ball as much as possible, controlling the tempo and time of possession in a football game. With a number of outstanding running backs, look for the tight end position to primarily be another offensive lineman.

Here's what Coach Wulff has to say about his tight end group:

"This is an area where we need to have players step up for us. Particularly the young tight ends in redshirt freshmen Skylar Stormo and Andrei Lintz. We are counting on those two to produce and help us. We have been impressed with Tony Thompson, who is a versatile tight end; we can do a lot of things with Tony which gives us a lot of flexibility. Zach Tatman is someone who showed us flashes of good things during the spring. He gives us some maturity and a physical presence."

Let's talk about the group known for creating some of the most exciting plays in college football. 

The wide receivers.

In Coach Wulff's offensive system, the fleet corps on the receiving end of quarterback passes are given letters instead of names like flanker, slot, split end, etc. This corps is split into the familiar three groups as follows: X, F, Z. If you don't get that, it's OK. There won't be a test later on this information.

The receivers are a talented group that's long on potential and short on experience. That should sound familiar by now. If not, suggest you go back and read my previous two parts on offense and the three on defense. To summarize, this is a very young football team.

Two of the fastest young men who will be lining up on the outside for their position Coach Mike Levenseller are juniors Jeshua Anderson and Johnny Forzani. Speed is where the similarity ends from a football perspective.

Anderson is a two-sport star. He has shown flashes of brilliance on the football field in his first two years at Washington State. The other sport Anderson excels in is track, where he is a world-class hurdler.

There was some doubt about his returning to WSU this fall with pro track knocking at his door. The money for running track will have to wait.

Though his fall camp participation has been limited by a strained hamstring, Anderson should be ready to go for the season opener.

In the case of Forzani, here's a young man who didn't even play high school football. Good reason for that. His high school dropped the program.

Forzani attended Douglas College following high school and was a key member on the basketball team that won the Canadian National Championship. During the 2007-2008 season, Forzani broke onto the football scene playing for the CFL Calgary Stampeders practice squad. Raw talent.

Coach Levenseller can't teach anyone speed, but he is the best at schooling young men on the tools needed to be a standout receiver.

Forzani had surgery on his foot recently and has missed a few fall camp sessions because of it. Like Anderson, when the gun sounds on Sept. 5, he should be ready to play some football.

Back for their second year after playing last season as true freshmen, Kevin Norrell and Jared Karstetter will see plenty of playing time. Both have looked great during fall camp showing excellent development as players.

Two other juniors who add talent depth to this group are Daniel Blackledge and Jeffrey Solomon. Blackledge saw some action last year and is building on that experience.

Solomon was forced to sit out last season by NCAA rule after transferring from Eastern Washington. His experience on the field is limited, but he brings speed and good hands every day.

When it comes to experience, the guy with the least might just turn out to be the best. True freshman Gino Simone was one of the top two or three high school players in the state of Washington. I'm being generous there, to avoid debate over claiming who was the No. 1 player.

Though Coach Wulff prefers to have incoming freshman use a red shirt year to develop physically and learn his system, it doesn't look as though there's a chance that will happen with Simone.

He has impressed both coaches and teammates in fall camp. Four words describe Simone: "The guy can play."

If you are interested in getting more familiar with Gino Simone, he was on Ian Furness' Show on KJR Radio 950 AM this afternoon. To listen on demand to his interview, click HERE.

Here's some thoughts from Coach Wulff on the receivers:

"A lot of young guys. It is really a position we have tried to overhaul and there are a lot of new faces that will have to play. We are still relatively inexperienced in some regards in terms of total amount of playing time in their career on game days. There are a few who have some experience: Jared Karstetter, Daniel Blackledge, Kevin Norrell, and Jeshua Anderson. Those guys have played a little bit. We add Johnny Forzani, who hasn't played much but will add some athleticism to the group, along with Jeffrey Solomon and Gino Simone. There is a core of players that need to work very hard, but they have a great attitude so we are excited to watch their development over the next few years."

The rest of the conference and media may be surprised by the performance of the wide receivers.

No surprise here. Barring injury, this is a solid group coached by one of the best in Levenseller.

In the final installment of my series, we'll wrap up things with a look at the position that gets either all the glory or all the blame. 

The quarterbacks.

Originally published on Examiner.com


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