PULLMAN — After standout slotback Renard Bell went down with an harm, the Washington State soccer crew took inventory of its receiving corps.
The Cougars, whose base offense options two inside receivers (slotbacks) and two exterior receivers, recognized their 4 greatest pass-catching choices, no matter place.
They settled on a bunch that features three exterior receivers — second-year starters De’Zhaun Stribling and Donovan Ollie, and true freshman Leyton Smithson — and slotback Robert Ferrel.
WSU shifted Stribling inside and promoted Smithson into the beginning lineup to make up for the lack of Bell, a senior who will probably be sidelined indefinitely after struggling an arm harm Oct. 8 at USC.
Stribling performed his first recreation on the slot place and Smithson made his first profession begin Oct. 15 at Oregon State. Stribling had 45 yards on three catches and Smithson added 62 yards on 4 receptions, however the Cougars’ offense faltered within the 24-10 loss.
WSU (4-3 total, 1-3 Pac-12) will ship out the identical new-look set of receivers when it hosts No. 14 Utah at 7 p.m. Thursday.
“With Renard out, we needed to try to find a way to get our playmakers the ball as much as possible,” Cougars coach Jake Dickert stated. “I think that’s what we’re trying to do, moving Strib inside.”
Slotbacks are typically smaller, elusive receiving targets with fast ft. Bell, as an example, did a few of his most interesting work on shallow crossing routes, utilizing sharp cuts to shake defenders. Stribling, at 6-foot-3 and 205 kilos, provides the Cougars a “long strider” on the slotback place, a possible deep menace down the center of the sector, Dickert famous.
“I think there was also a scheme emphasis of getting a big body in there so we can work more of the middle of the field. We can (pass) more down the field in the seams,” he added. “I think that’s what Strib gives us in there — a change-of-pace guy.
“There is some give and take. Renard is a little more snappy on underneath routes off of his cuts. Strib is a little more of a long-strider, big body.”
Stribling broke into the beginning lineup as a real freshman final season and led all Pac-12 rookie receivers in catches (44), yards (471) and touchdowns (5). This season, the Hawaii native paces the Cougar receivers with 359 yards and 4 touchdowns.
“I’ve just been really impressed with Strib and his mentality,” Dickert stated. “His voice has grown. He is de facto discovering methods to be a frontrunner in observe. … Those are the steps and the maturation of a younger participant.
“I think he has handled being in the slot, which also isn’t easy. People think it’s just a receiver — you just go out there and run a route — but there is a mentality difference in (the slot) and things happen faster.”
Dickert indicated WSU had thought of transferring Smithson to the slot, as a result of he “maybe fits better as an inside guy.” But “putting the stress on Strib to learn a new position” appeared just like the safer guess.
“I think Strib can handle it — that’s (his) maturity,” Dickert stated.
Smithson starred at Squalicum High (Bellingham) final season as a dual-threat quarterback. Initially recruited to WSU as a defensive again, Smithson flipped to receiver shortly after signing. He impressed coaches along with his pace throughout fall camp and ascended the depth chart, claiming a second-team spot on the depth chart earlier than the season started. Playing restricted snaps for the primary six video games of the yr, Smithson has had 97 yards on eight catches.
“Every time he touches the ball, you just see his growth,” Dickert stated. “I’m excited about what he has continued to do, and we gotta find ways to get him the ball in space. This is his first year playing wide receiver. Let’s make sure everyone understands that. Last year, he was running the rock at quarterback.
“I think (Smithson’s emergence) allows you to be more versatile. We need guys like that to step up as we go throughout these last five weeks.”
Dickert is searching for Ollie to enhance his manufacturing on downfield routes. Ollie has tallied 354 yards and two touchdowns on a team-high 33 receptions. Dickert can be ready on a breakout recreation from backup slot Orion Peters, who shined throughout fall camp however has produced simply 48 yards this season.
Ferrel has been a dependable goal since becoming a member of the fold in Week 3 — he missed WSU’s preseason and first two video games with an ankle harm. The senior Incarnate Word switch has 339 yards and three TDs on 25 catches. Ferrel changed Lincoln Victor in WSU’s beginning lineup early this season. Victor had been one among WSU’s most efficient receivers of the preseason, however he’s been quiet this yr. The junior recorded 39 yards on 5 catches over the previous 4 video games.
“Peters needs to be a bigger part of the offense, and I think he will be,” Dickert stated. “Rob has been very consistent. Don needs to make some plays down the field. It’s everybody. It starts with me.”
WSU’s receivers have proven some encouraging flashes within the crew’s Air Raid offense, however the group has been largely underwhelming after coming into the season with excessive expectations surrounding it.
“Consistency — that’s the word we’ve been using over the course of the bye week and into this short game week,” Dickert stated of the receivers. “We’ve got to be more consistent. There are times when you love it. There are times when you see Rob doing it at an elite level. I think you saw Renard doing it at an elite level. It’s just not consistent enough over time.
“When we have taken our shots down the field … we just haven’t given our guys enough opportunities to go make the play. We are leaving too many of those throws out of bounds.”
The Cougar receivers appeared to have bother separating from defensive backs in WSU’s two most up-to-date video games, losses to USC and Oregon State.
“I feel like everybody, in those last two games, we kinda got away from ourselves, away from our technique,” Ollie stated. “We just have to get a refresh on that and get it rolling again.”
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