All eyes on QBs as Washington State moves its spring routine to Spokane for Crimson & Gray game

April 20, 2018

PULLMAN – In Saturday’s Crimson & Gray game, Trey Tinsley and Anthony Gordon will both have the opportunity to do something that isn’t guaranteed for either after the annual scrimmage at Joe Albi Stadium in Spokane.

That is, start at quarterback for the Washington State Cougars.

It could be the first of a few-dozen for one of WSU’s redshirt juniors. It could be the last for the other.

Nonetheless, it’ll mark the 14th of 15 spring auditions for both of the QB hopefuls, and while Mike Leach wants his signal-callers to place equal value in every snap taken through the months of March and April, Saturday’s trial is probably the most important one.

A large contingent of Spokane’s WSU alumni/fanbase will turn out for the annual spring game. The Cougars will swap out tattered practice shirts for fresh game jerseys. And further simulating the ambience of an actual football contest, a crew of cameramen and analysts from the Pac-12 Networks will be on site broadcasting the scrimmage live. The first hour will air on the main Pac-12 Networks channel, the second will appear on the Pac-12 Washington affiliate.

“(It’s) just getting as best as a real game as possible with the play clock, the scoreboard on,” Tinsley said. “You’ve got timeouts and just everything simulating a real game as much as possible and just working off that and trying to get the best quality reps we can to put on tape. Then after that, go back and watch the tape and go from there.”

Neither Tinsley or Gordon will win the job on Saturday, but one can create separation from the other and both can put some distance between themselves and incoming graduate transfer Gardner Minshew, who won’t go through his first practice with the Cougars until August.

Tinsley, who’s been just a nose ahead of Gordon in recent workouts, will lead the “Crimson” team on Saturday. Gordon will be in charge of the “Gray” team. Those two will take the large majority of the snaps for the first half. True freshman Cammon Cooper and redshirt freshman walk-on John Bledsoe, both members of the “Crimson” team, and redshirt freshman Connor Neville, a member of the “Gray” team will split up the remainder of the repetitions.

“We’ll see how it goes, but it’ll be Tinsley and Gordon for the first half for the most part,” Leach said. “Maybe not the entire first half, but generally speaking the first half.”

Leach and his staff work carefully to divide their spring game rosters, ensuring there’s no great talent discrepancy between “Crimson” and “Gray.” Granted, the two receivers who’ve been labeled by Leach as the most consistent through spring camp happen to be on Tinsley’s side: inside “Y” receiver Kyle Sweet and outside “Z” receiver Easop Winston. Sweet’s caught 12 passes for 139 yards and four touchdowns in the first two spring scrimmages. Winston had two TD receptions in the last scrimmage.

That doesn’t mean Gordon’s cabinet of playmakers is bare. He’ll have zippy, sure-handed Jamire Calvin on the inside and rangy, athletic Tay Martin on the outside – not to mention 6-4 junior Dezmon Patmon.

While the quarterbacks aim to show good knowledge of Leach’s play-calling concepts, demonstrate poise in the pocket and post a strong touchdown-to-interception ratio, the receivers have their own objectives in mind.

“We talk about, half of this stuff is just showing up and trying really, really hard,” inside receivers coach Dave Nichol said. “We are finally starting to chase the ball better, meaning transition from, I’m trying to get open to all right, I’m going to be a blocker. Just effort and then trying to be physical. We can’t work on that enough. Just like another day for us.”

The Cougars’ projected starter at running back this fall, James Williams, will be taking handoffs from Tinsley. Promising freshman/early enrollee Max Borghi will be in Gordon’s huddle. The offensive line will be split as evenly as an odd-numbered position group can be.

Starting left tackle Andre Dillard and starting left guard Josh Watson will protect Tinsley. Center Fred Mauigoa, right guard Robert Valencia and right tackle Abraham Lucas will block for Gordon.

Prior to the game, there will be a Kids Skill Challenge that’s free and open to the public. Afterward, autograph-seekers are allowed to gather on the field and obtain signatures from their favorite Cougars.

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