That would be two freshmen: wide receiver Dominique Williams and defensive end-tackle Xavier Cooper.
“I think he’ll make a big difference,” head man Paul Wulff said.
“Dominique is going to be a great player,” defensive coordinator Chris Ball said.
The 6-foot-2, 180-pound Williams, a native of Pomona, Calif., is a speedy, graceful receiver.
“I’m really excited about that kid,” offensive coordinator Todd Sturdy said. “Physically, he’s got a nice body he’s working with.
“I mean, he’s a tall kid. Rangy. Long arms. He’s got really good turnover (speed) for a tall kid. Can cover ground. Good hands. Athletic.”
Cooper, a 6-4, 278-pounder, starred at Wilson High School in Tacoma. He’s practiced with the Cougars since last spring but was academically ineligible this season.
“Xavier’s a guy who would be in our rotation right now, without question,” Wulff said. “He’s doing very well.”
“I’m looking forward to seeing Xavier Cooper,” senior linebacker Alex Hoffman-Ellis said. “He’s strong. He’s very athletic as well.”
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COACHES ARE SO high on offensive tackle Rico Forbes that Wulff says they haven’t ruled out playing Forbes this season “if something really drastic” happens to other offensive linemen.
Forbes, a 6-6, 283-pound junior, is a Houston native who played on the National Junior College Athletic Association champions of Navarro (Texas) last season.
“He will without question challenge for a starting position next year,” Wulff said.
“He’s just a huge human being,” Sturdy said. “Good feet. Still developing.”
Moritz Christ and Gunnar Eklund are two frosh offensive linemen earning praise. Christ, a 6-5, 310-pound native of Germany, played a year of high school ball in Texas. Eklund is a 6-7, 277-pound walk-on from Lake Stevens High.
“Gunnar Eklund, he’s been a big surprise for us,” Wulff said. “He’s going to be a really good football player.”
Junior defensive end Ian Knight, a junior college transfer from Wichita, Kan., and frosh tight ends Max Hersey of Tacoma (Curtis High) and Mansel Simmons (Elk Grove, Calif.) are turning heads. Coaches also like freshman quarterback Cody Clements from Whittier, Calif.
“Cody Clements is having a good fall,” Sturdy said. “I really like what he’s doing.”
“Cody, he’s a competitor,” Wulff said. “He’s one of those players, good things happen when he’s playing. He’s just got that kind of moxie and ability.”
TWO MORE FROSH making names for themselves are defensive end Darryl Paulo from Sacramento, Calif., and linebacker Tana Pritchard from Lakewood (Clover Park High) outside Tacoma. Pritchard projects to play outside linebacker, but Wulff said a move to the middle has not been ruled out entirely.
“Tana Pritchard is getting better and better … a smart, tough kid,” Wulff said.
“Tana Pritchard is doing a great job,” Ball said. “He’s gotten scout team player of the week twice defensively.”
The Cougars are planning on the NCAA granting medical redshirt years to three players injured in games early this season. The trio consists of senior offensive tackle Wade Jacobson from Hollister, Calif., freshman outside linebacker Darryl Monroe from Orlando, Fla., and freshman cornerback Spencer Waseem from Apopka, Fla.
Ball said Monroe “would have played a lot” if he had not tore an Achilles in the opener. Wulff said Waseem is “very fast, very strong” and would have seen plenty of action if he had not required arthroscopic knee surgery after the second game. Sturdy said Jacobson was “really performing well” as the starting right tackle before his season ended after four games due to a back injury that required surgery.
Another freshman sitting out the year who may help on special teams next season is walk-on kicker-punter Tyler McNannay from Colfax High.
Wulff said McNannay has “got a Reid Forrest-type of upside.” As was the case with Forrest, an Ephrata High product who walked on and developed into perhaps the greatest punter in WSU history, McNannay’s kicking and punting techniques are raw.
“He’s got a hell of a leg,” Wulff said.
That could come in handy next season, since punter Dan Wagner is a senior. Wulff said the Cougars are keeping an eye on punters and kickers on the recruiting trail.
He's already used his redshirt season, but kick returner Blair Bomber also merits a mention. Bomber, a speedy 5-8 receiver who redshirted last year, suffered a major knee injury in spring practice that required surgery. Sturdy said he hopes Bomber will be 100 percent for spring ball.
“He’s quick,” Sturdy said. “He’ll be a great guy on special teams.”