Simmons sizes up WSU WRs & Mayle's potential

DENNIS SIMMONS

SEATTLE -- Dennis Simmons makes no attempts to contain his enthusiasm for the receivers in Washington State's 2013 version of the Air Raid. "Our level of play at the end of the season was really good," he told CF.C at WSU's football dinner in Seattle last Friday. "We just need to continue where we left off." And come August, when Vince Mayle arrives, the progress might just move into overdrive.

Simmons, who is WSU's outside receivers coach, calls the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Mayle, "a freak with all the attributes you could ask for."

Mayle (pronounced May-Lee) is transferring to WSU this summer from Sierra College in California, where he earned JC All-American honors and a plethora of scholarship offers despite having never played receiver before.

Simmons compares Mayle favorably to one of his former pupils at Texas, Michael Crabtree. He also sees similarities between Mayle and three-time Pro Bowler Anquan Boldin.

"He's built better than Crabtree," Simmons said. "Probably faster straight ahead than Crabtree. He's snatching the ball out of the air like Anquan Bolden. This one will be interesting."

Simmons said Mayle's unique combination of size, speed, athleticism and physicality could vault him into the realm of Cougar greats.

"I'm just like the rest of the Cougar Nation and fans," he said. "He'll be fun to watch. He's got some God-given abilities and talents that we feel can create some problems for opposing defensive backs. If that kid dedicates himself, he's a kid from a physical standpoint who looks better than a lot of guys playing on Sunday."

That does not mean Mayle is assured of a starting position at outside receiver, though. The Cougars return notable, proven talent that will get a big jumpstart on Mayle in the Cougars' spring practice season, which begins in less than a month ...


GABE MARKS

  • GABE MARKS, a sophomore-to-be, caught 49 passes last season for 560 yards and two touchdowns as a true freshman.

    "He needs to continue growing and developing," Simmons says. "Anytime you have success as freshman you tend to put pressure on yourself. Gabe just needs to follow a natural progression, which I think he's done (this winter) with the weights.

    "Gabe's a very competitive person," he said. "When you put a bunch of competitive people in a room it's kind of like cream. You just wait to see what's going to rise to the top."

  • DOMINIQUE WILLIAMS, who will be a third-year sophomore this season, caught 34 passes for 546 yards and three TDs last year, but it was his work late in the campaign that has Simmons excited "to see where he's going to go" in 2013.

    "I was extremely proud to see where that kid left off the season from where he was when we got here," Simmons said.

    "He picked it up against Stanford and continued through UCLA, and then had it all culminate against Washington."

    Williams caught eight passes in the Apple Cup for a game-high 143 yards as the Cougars staged a dramatic come-from-behind win. Still, Williams'' big day could have been bigger. "There were a couple of slants he should have caught," Simmons said.

  • KRISTOFF WILLIAMS, the injury-plagued junior-to-be had 22 receptions for 192 yards and four TDs last season, has Simmons eager for spring because the foot and hip problems that have slowed him appear to be far into the rear-view mirror.

    "Kristoff, prior to us getting here, we had a high expectation for him, but unfortunately because of injuries didn't have a chance to do it," Simmons said. "Even to get him back into the fold and healthy in the latter part of the season was extremely exciting for me to see.

    "He has great football IQ and his physique is what you'd expect to see on the cover of Men's Magazine. I'm excited to see what he can do over a whole spring (season)."


    ISIAH MYERS

  • ISIAH MYERS, another junior-to-be, had a breakout season in 2012 with 42 receptions for 438 yards and four TDs.

    "He had coming-out party last year," Simmons said. "He understands spacing and is one of our better route runners. Isiah's deal this spring is going to be working on consistency."

    AS A GROUP, SAYS SIMMONS, the focus is on reminding them they "had a little success last year toward the end of the season — let's not start over. Let's pick up where we left off and keep building on that.'"

    He noted that the staff keeps the "what have you done lately" mentality front and center with the receivers in a very visible way.

    "We chart everything -- routes, catches, attempts, completions," he said. "And we post it for everyone to see. That right there answers a lot of questions. We post everything from every practice and every game."

    Simmons doesn't coach WSU's inside receivers. Long-time Missouri assistant David Yost inherited those responsibilities from Eric Morris, who left for Texas Tech. But Simmons also is encouraged by the talent there.

    "I'm extremely excited about them," Simmons said. "A lot of those guys got baptized under fire early."

    Chief among them are Brett Bartolone who had a team-high 53 receptions in 2012 as a true freshman, and junior-to-be Bobby Ratliff, who had 30 catches for 399 yards last year.

    Simmons also expects a fully healthy Rickey Galvin to push for playing time. Galvin caught nine passes last season before re-fracturing his right arm Sept. 14 at UNLV. Galvin previously broke that arm during the 2010 season opener at Oklahoma State. He has two years of eligibility remaining.

    "A guy who never really got a chance to showcase his ability as a receiver last year is Rickey Galvin," Simmons said.

    Also in the mix inside this spring will be veterans Bennett Bontemps and Henry Eaddy, and newcomers Robert Lewis and Adam West.

    Joining them in the fall will be River Cracraft, a 6-2 athlete from Santa Margarita, Calif.

    "It will be interesting to see what River Cracraft does when he gets here," said Simmons, who is one of WSU's chief recruiters in southern California. "He's a sure-handed and big-bodied kid. He's going to be able to -- from a physical standpoint -- step in."

    Simmons also noted that Marks, while an outside receiver, could get some touches from an inside position.

    AS FOR HIS TROOPS IN THE outside receiving corps, Simmons said they have been preparing over the off season with purpose.

    "The biggest plus is seeing how seriously those guys are taking it as far as coming in and watching film and trying to do things to get better," he said. "All of that is going to factor into making us a better football team. You win games right now. You play them in the fall."

    Spring ball commences on Mar. 21 and the season opener, at Auburn, is Aug. 31.

    "We're going to have a lot of competition" between now and then, Simmons said. "Right now, nobody's name is inked into a starting role. It's going to be who's doing it on a consistent basis."
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