#30 Washington State Football 2017 Preview


Washington State Cougars


Overall Rank: #30

#6 Pac-12

Following losses to Eastern Washington and Boise State, Washington Stated reeled off eight wins in a row, including seven against Pac-12 opposition. The Cougars had a great opportunity to win the Pac-12 North, but losses to Colorado and Washington put an end to those hopes. The Cougars followed it up with their third straight loss against Minnesota in the Holiday Bowl. Those losses have hampered the expectations heading into the 2017 season, but this is an experienced group. And if Washington State is going to win the Pac-12 North any time soon, this better be the year.
2016 Record: 8-5, 7-2
2016 Bowl: Holiday Bowl vs. Minnesota (L 12-17)
Coach: Mike Leach (29-34 at Washington State, 113-77 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Mike Leach
Defensive Coordinator: Alex Grinch
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: James Williams, RB, 584 yards
Passing: Luke Falk, QB, 4,468 yards
Receiving: Tavares Martin, WR, 728 yards
Tackles: Peyton Pelluer, LB, 93
Sacks: Hercules Mata’afa, DE, 5.0
Interceptions: Isaac Dotson, LB, 2; Marcellus Pippins, CB, 2
Other Key Returnees: RB Jamal Morrow, RB Gerard Wicks, WR Robert Lewis, OL Cody O’Connell, CB Darrien Molton, S Robert Taylor, S Jalen Thompson
Key Losses: WR Gabe Marks, WR River Cracraft, LB Shalom Luani
Luke Falk is one of the many returning seniors on the roster. He threw for 4,468 yards and 38 touchdowns last season and will be in for a special senior season. Falk will have to break in some new receivers though with the loss of Gabe Marks and River Cracraft. Marks led the team with 89 passes for 894 yards and 13 touchdowns. Cracraft added 701 yards and five scores on 53 receptions. Tavares Martin, Jr. will be the new top receiver. Sophomore Isaiah Johnson-Mack and junior college transfer Easop Winston will be asked to step up this year and help replace Marks and Cracraft. Despite all of the passing prowess of a Mike Leach offense, the ground game is very good too. James Williams, Jamal Morrow and Gerard Wicks are back after combining to rush for 1,645 yards and 22 touchdowns in 2016. Those three also are good pass catchers out of the backfield. With a talented offensive line, WSU will have one of the most potent offenses in the country.
What makes Washington State a true contender in the Pac-12 is their defense. The unit has made huge strides the last couple of seasons and the hope is that will continue into 2017. The defensive line has some work to do though. The front three, and the team as a whole, struggled to get to the quarterback. Junior Hercules Mata’afa has a ton of potential, but now it is time for him to be even more productive. This group lacks size too and they will have to make up for it with quickness or the defense could have trouble against the run. However, the depth and talent at linebacker should help make up for it. Peyton Pelluer, Frankie Luvu and Dylan Hanser are all experienced seniors. Pelluer led the Cougars with 93 tackles last season and should be the team’s top tackler again in 2017. Darrien Molton, Marcellus Pippins and Marcus Strong are all very good cornerbacks. Molton has been a starter since his freshman campaign and tallied 71 tackles last season. Jalen Thompson and Robert Taylor are returning starters at safety.
The Bottom Line:
If the pass rush improves, the pass defense should be better too. If that happens, Washington State will compete for a Pac-12 title. However, the schedule, as always, is very tough in the Pac-12. The Cougars have to travel to North rivals Oregon and Washington. Home games against USC from the South Division and Stanford will not be easy either. A conference title may be out of reach, but Washington State will have an impact on the conference title race.
Projected Bowl: Sun Bowl
2016 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 120.0 (114th in nation, 11th in conference)
Passing Offense: 362.5 (3, 1)
Total Offense: 482.5 (18, 3)
Scoring Offense: 38.2 (18, 2)
Rushing Defense: 134.2 (29, 3)
Pass Defense: 271.7 (112, 9)
Total Defense: 405.9 (62, 7)
Scoring Defense: 26.4 (50, 6)
Turnover Margin: 0.46 (28, 2)
Sacks: 1.46 (108, 12)
Sacks Allowed: 2.23 (78, 8)
Madness 2018 NFL Draft Rankings:
#31 Luke Falk
Madness 2017 Recruit Rankings:
#230 Jamire Calvin
#249 Connor Neville