|Jake Roth / USA TODAY Sports|
|Coach Mike Leach's latest receiving gem might be Gabe Marks, the Cougars' most-gifted athlete.|
Any notions that the arrival of head coach Mike Leach and his Air Raid offense could immediately reverse Washington State's fortunes were quickly and emphatically shot down, though an overtime win over rival Washington in the Apple Cup did offer some hope going into the offseason. Leach did identify some wide receivers who can contribute, hardly a surprise given his work with Wes Welker, Danny Amendola and Michael Crabtree at Texas Tech. After pushing numerous freshmen into the starting lineup, any significant NFL draft returns are years away.
Best from Washington StateCheck out the top players of all time from Washington State to have played in the NFL.
Top senior prospect
S Deone Bucannon: Bucannon is a solid, if unspectacular, free safety. He rarely plays in the box, since the new coaching staff wanted him to clean up any messes (106 tackles). Bucannon can break on the ball at times and has nine career interceptions. He has experience on special teams and will likely need to make an impact there to carve out any sort of NFL career.
WR Gabe Marks: Marks is the most gifted athlete on the Washington State roster. A four-star recruit who saw immediate playing time as a true freshman (49 receptions for 560 yards and two touchdowns), Marks needs to focus to truly harness that talent.
WR Dominique Williams: While Marks and Marquess Wilson, (a seventh-round selection by the Chicago Bears in the 2013 NFL Draft), were the ones expected to thrive in the new spread passing attack, it was the forgotten redshirt freshman who showed major promise. Williams had 34 catches for 536 yards and three scores, including eight grabs for 143 yards to help upset the Huskies. He showed big-play ability with seven receptions of 25-plus yards.
Three must-see games of 2013
Aug. 31 at Auburn: The Cougars head down to SEC country to face another spread guru in new Tigers head coach Gus Malzahn, who was offensive coordinator for Auburn during Cam Newton's Heisman Trophy-winning campaign. An overflow of offense should make the matchup at least passable.
Sept. 7 at USC: Gabe Marks and Dominique Williams return home to face a talented but untested Trojan secondary, outside of hybrid safety/linebacker Dion Bailey. The Cougars will be hoping to pull the kind of shocker that became a Leach trademark when he was in the Big 12.
Oct. 5 at California Air Raid vs. Bear Raid, as Leach takes on his former Texas Tech assistant Sonny Dykes. Deone Bucannon should be well versed in the Cal offense, which features promising young wide receivers Bryce Treggs and Chris Harper.
Follow Dan Greenspan on Twitter @DanGreenspan.