April 25, 2002
By Brent Courtright
WSU Sports Information
Players from both sides of the ball are looking forward to proving themselves and earning a starting spot in the Annual Crimson and Gray game at Martin Stadium this Saturday.
"I'm looking forward to playing in front of some fans, showing everybody what we have and what we've been working for," Erik Coleman said, junior defensive back.
"It's a good game to get hyped up for in the spring, it's going to be a good time," Billy Knotts said, junior offensive lineman. "You get to go out and show what you have, in front of a good crowd and have fun."
"My favorite thing about spring is the intensity, nobody has a spot, it's war," added Coleman. "We are playing intense every practice, emotions are running high and it's a good time to get better."
Coleman is projected to start at the free safety position in the fall. He picked off two passes from starting quarterback Jason Gesser in the scrimmage last Saturday. On the first interception, he went 68 yards for a touchdown. However, he has some big roles to fill with both of last year's starting safeties departed.
"Lamont (Thompson) taught me many things, even small things about what to look for in the offense," Coleman said. "And Billy (Newman) from the leadership standpoint, he was such a great leader and I have step in and be that leader and be as successful as they were."
Not only are there positions to be earned on defense but offense as well. With senior offensive linemen Joey Hollenbeck leaving, there is big competition for the lone starting position on the offensive line.
"He was a great athlete and had good senior leadership, but we have the other four (starters) returning and we have young guys who got to play a little last year that are coming in as veterans," Knotts. said We have a big, stacked offensive line this year which is going to be really good."
Knotts injured his knee in the first game of the season last year against Idaho. At 6-foot-7, and weighing in around 300 pounds, he is the leading contender for the open offensive guard position.
"I'm hungry as hell, I sat out a long time last year and missed some big games," Knotts said. "Now, I'm excited and waiting to play. I can't get enough of it."
With last year's offensive starters Derrick Roche and Tyler Hunt missing out on most if not all of spring drills while recovering from injuries. Knotts has proven he is one of the most versatile linemen in the offensive squad. While shifting from tackle to guard, he has even taken some snaps at the center position. Another past starter, Josh Parrish has been focusing his attention on his studies this spring.
Despite both Knotts and Coleman trying to win out their positions, some of the other players are turning the heads of their teammates.
"Devard Darling has been surprising. I had no idea he was that strong, He runs well after the catch, he runs good routes and he's really fast," Coleman said.
Darling transferred from Florida State last fall. He is a sophomore wide receiver and is currently listed at 6-foot-3, 205 pounds.
"Pat Bennett, he is doing absolutely perfect considering just a little over a year ago, he was back at Forks high school (Wash.)," Knotts said. "That kid is stepping it up and really starting to play good at middle linebacker. He went from a high school player to a college player quickly."
The starting spot at running back is still too close to call. Even after three scrimmages, there is still no clear frontrunner. But returning veteran, John Tippins, and fresh-face junior college transfer, Jermaine Green, seem to be the top two competing for the number one position in the backfield.
"I think Jermaine Green is one of the best athletes I have ever seen. His speed and size is something I have never had running behind me before," said Knotts. "He has potential and is an amazing athlete."
"And Tippins can cut and I trust him. He's been there before and he's made big plays," added Knotts. "You get a good feeling with him."
The Crimson and Gray game will take place at Martin Stadium in Pullman Saturday, April 27, at 2 p.m. Admission is free to all Cougar fans.
The game will be replayed on Fox Sports Northwest Sunday, April 28, at 11 a.m.