Posted on November 5, 2020
The WSU football team is the land of opportunity this year. There are plenty of starting spots up for grabs, and that will likely continue throughout the season.
That translates to a lot of uncertainty when it comes to the statistical leaders for the Cougars in 2020. There are a handful of candidates who could lead WSU is every category on both sides of the ball. The only lock is that running back Max Borghi will lead the team in the rushing stats.
Trying to predict who those stat leaders will be is a difficult task. It is like trying to paint a portrait of someone you haven’t seen.
With that being said, I will attempt to see into the future and the Cougar leaders in each major statistical category.
Passing Yards, Touchdowns, Completions: Jayden de Laura
This one will obviously go to whoever the starting quarterback is for the majority of the season, but that does not make it any easier to predict.
While head coach Nick Rolovich has not publicly announced who will be under center on November 7th against Oregon State, all the evidence, and at least one report, is making it look like that will be de Laura. In fact, Rolovich seemed to acknowledge as much on Monday.
De Laura is the most familiar with the Run and Shoot offense, having run it in high school. Although it is not the exact same system, any extra knowledge gives him a huge leg up in this shortened offseason.
He has also performed best in the team’s two scrimmages, completing 20 of his 27 pass attempts for 179 yards and two touchdowns, while also rushing for 47 yards and a touchdown.
If de Laura is the guy to take over the starting spot, and keeps the job, he will easily lead the team in those passing categories. If not, then either Cammon Cooper or Gunner Cruz will have that distinction.
Rushing Yards, Touchdowns: Max Borghi
This is the only category that I can predict with confidence. Not only is Borghi the most talented running back on the roster, he is also the best player on the team.
Borghi led the team in each of those categories last year, and there is nothing to suggest he won’t repeat that feat.
Receiving Yards: Jamire Calvin
This is the closest prediction. Calvin, Renard Bell, Travell Harris, Calvin Jackson Jr., and even Joey Hobert, all have a chance to rack up the most receiving yards.
Calvin is the pick as he is expected to line up at outside receiver after spending his first two years in the slot.
This shows the level of confidence that Rolovich has in the redshirt junior, even though he missed all of 2019 with an injury.
Calvin’s move to the outside also means he will have less competition for reps and catches. The slot position is stacked with Bell, Harris, Hobert, with running backs such as Borghi and Deon McIntosh expected to get some receiving work.
Calvin is likely to get most of the reps at his respective outside position while also getting some looks in the slot.
The wealth of opportunities will surely be spread around in the very talented receiver room, but Calvin will come out on top in total yards.
Receiving Touchdowns: Max Borghi
This is the first big shocker in these predictions. Despite the previously mentioned talented group of wide receivers, it will be a running back who will lead the team in receiving touchdowns.
This is not a completely-out-of-nowhere prediction. Borghi has nine such touchdowns in two years as a Cougar, and finished tied for fifth on the team last year with five.
Borghi is expected to have a more expanded role as a pass-catcher this season, giving him even more opportunities to score through the air.
Rolovich has mentioned that he plans on using the running backs in the slot, allowing them to run more routes. Borghi caught his passes last year from the backfield, mainly on swing passes, yet was still able to score five times.
He has already staked his claim as the best pass-catching back in the Pac-12, and maybe even the best running back overall. By stepping up even more this year and leading his team in receiving touchdowns, Borghi will establish himself as one of the premier offensive weapons in the Conference.
Sacks: Willie Taylor
This stat is a bit of a sore spot for this WSU team. No player had more than four sacks in 2019, and Taylor recorded just two.
Predicting Taylor to be the leading sack artist is purely based on his abundant talent. He has been mentioned countless times as the most impressive pass rusher this offseason with guys such as Will Rodgers, and Abe Lucas, of whom Edge coach AJ Cooper speaks highly.
The new defensive system WSU is running this year will have the defensive ends in three-point stances instead of standing up, like they did under the previous regime.
This scheme change will make rushing the passer more natural for many players, and Taylor figures to be one of the biggest beneficiaries. He is one of the most versatile athletes on the defense, having played safety in high school.
There is no guarantee that anybody on this team will record double-digit sacks, or even more than five or six. But if a player does have a big season on the defensive line, it will be Taylor.
Tackles: Jahad Woods
Of all the non-rushing stats, this is the easiest one to predict. Woods was not only WSU’s leading tackler with 144, he also finished second in the Conference in that category.
Woods had more than double the amount of tackles as the second-best Cougar last year, Skyler Thomas, who is no longer on the team.
Other than Woods, the defense will feature a lot of youth and inexperience, meaning that he may have to step up and make more plays than would otherwise be expected.
Defensive coordinator Jake Dickert has stated that he does not want the defense to rely solely on Woods. Even if Woods’ total tackles goes down this year, he remains a sure bet to lead the team, based on his proven ability to get to the ball and make tackles.
Interceptions: Armani Marsh
Skyler Thomas led the Cougars with four interceptions from the nickel position last year, where he would have been slotted again this year if he hadn’t entered the transfer portal.
The only returning member of the secondary that also recorded an interception last season is cornerback George Hicks III. This means the competition for Wazzu’s interception leader should be strong, mainly because there are plenty of guys in the secondary looking to prove themselves.
Marsh is the best bet to pick off the most passes because he is secure in his position. Every position will be a battle each week, but Marsh has less competition at nickel than some of the other positions.
There are a lot of talented players at corner that could make it hard for one guy to stand out and grab a handful of interceptions. The corner position will probably account for the most interceptions, but that number may be spread out among multiple players.
Marsh will be in a position to make plays every game, and if he is able to take advantage of those opportunities, he should be the team leader in interceptions.
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