Spring preview: Washington State Cougars

Washington State Cougars

2015 record: 9-4, 6-3 in Pac-12

Most pressing offensive storyline: The Cougars have a few players to replace on offense (more on that later), but if there was ever a year to be optimistic about Washington State football, it's now. It's not a question of if the Cougars will be good, it's how good. Quarterback Luke Falk and wide receiver Gabe Marks return to bolster what has the potential to be among the nation's most high-scoring offenses.

Most pressing defensive storyline: There are gaps to fill up front -- Darryl Paulo and Destiny Vaeao, specifically -- but Hercules Mata'afa was excellent as a freshman and the defense improved drastically in Alex Grinch's first year as the defensive coordinator. The Cougars lowered their points allowed per game more than 10 points compared to 2014. In Year 2 under Grinch, they should, at least theoretically, be that more adept at executing his vision.

Heat Index (1-10 scale, measure of pressure on the head coach): 1. Athletic director Bill Moos couldn't be happier with the job Mike Leach has done resurrecting the program. There will be pressure to sustain success now, but Leach's job is as secure as any in the conference.

Returning starters/key returnees: 8 offense, 6 defense (QB Luke Falk, WR Gabe Marks, S Shalom Luani, DL Hercules Mata'afa, LB Peyton Pelluer)

Key losses: LT Joe Dahl, DL Destiny Vaeao, WR Dom Williams, LB Jeremiah Allison, DL Darryl Paulo

Newcomer to watch: Running back James Williams. Williams redshirted last year, but there are some close to the program who feel he would have been the Cougars' best back had the staff chosen to play him right away. Here are a few clips from him, courtesy of CougCenter.

Statistical void that needs filling: Four sacks. That's the amount given up by Dahl over the past two seasons, which helped make him one of the more intriguing NFL offensive line prospects from the Pac-12. The Cougars were 3-1 in the four games Dahl missed with a broken foot last year, but he'll be a tough player to replace.

Spring game date: April 23 at Joe Albi Stadium in Spokane.