PULLMAN — When Washington State’s wide receivers were handicapped before the season, many expected that a group returning Dezmon Patmon, Tay Martin and Easop Winston Jr. could be among the best in the Pac-12 Conference.
And the unit’s top-to-bottom depth was supposed to complement its supreme talent.
Two weeks into the season, as the Cougars have outscored the opposition 117-24, both assertions seemed to have held up, and the receiver depth could be even stronger than originally expected.
It isn’t Patmon, Martin or Winston Jr. leading WSU in catches or receiving yards entering the third week of the 2019 season. Nor is it Calvin Jackson Jr., Rodrick Fisher, Renard Bell, Travell Harris or anyone that made a grab for the Cougars in 2018.
Brandon Arconado, a “Y” wide receiver who only played sparingly last season behind Kyle Sweet and Jamire Calvin, is WSU’s chart-topper through two games, leading the Cougars with 14 receptions and 193 yards.
In Satuday’s 59-17 win over Northern Colorado, Arconado turned in his first career 100-yard game, reeling in eight catches for 127 yards and a touchdown.
The redshirt senior’s career numbers prior to 2019? Arconado had just four catches for 73 yards and a touchdown, though all that production came two years ago while the Chino Hills, California, native was still paying for his college education as a WSU walk-on.
Arconado was put on scholarship in the spring of 2018, but he was mostly limited to a special teams role behind Sweet and Calvin on the depth chart at “Y” receiver and didn’t make a single catch.
So, quarterback Anthony Gordon isn’t the only member of WSU’s offense who came to Pullman as an unheralded recruit, sat behind players with more experience and had to wait three years to carve out a significant role in Mike Leach’s Air Raid.
“It’s been kind of rough, because we both came in at the same time and we’re both junior college kids,” Arconado said. “We came in and we were both bottom of the totem pole. It’s been a struggle but we learned a lot from people in front of us, because they were really, really good players. But it was also fun watching them and learning from them and trying to use what they did.
“It’s been kind of rough watching for the past three years and finally we’re getting our opportunity to shout out.”
Arconado shot to the top of the depth chart at the “Y” position after Sweet graduated and Calvin sustained a lower-body injury that’s sidelined him since spring camp.
For now, he’s the Cougars top option at the position, getting almost every rep there and occasionally being spelled by Kassidy Woods.
Looking at the way Arconado moves on the field, it’s easy to identify a player who’s spent the last three years watching and studying both Sweet and former WSU slot River Cracraft.
“I think that’s helped him a lot that he’s played behind both of those guys,” Leach said. “I think the fact he played behind both of those guys was very beneficial for him. I thought he did play consistently last game and has quietly been an incredibly consistent receiver for us and I think of the receivers, he had the best game last game.”
Arconado, like both of his predecessors at the “Y” position, is built similar to Cracraft and Sweet.
All three are listed at 6-feet, weigh between 190 and 195 pounds and don’t possess high-level speed or exceptional strength.
But they’ve each made up for their deficiencies with their intangibles: running crisp routes, blocking better than most of their counterparts and relying on their soft hands.
“We’re not the fastest, but they’re real savvy so they have a little swagger to the game,” Arconado said of Sweet and Cracraft. “They have their own kind of style which really helps them out. I think that really helps me out, too, because I was behind River and Sweet.
“So watching them in practice and games, I think it really helps me out because I watch some of their moves.
“I still watch River to this day, but they were both great big brothers to come into because they really took care of me and helped me out. So I’m really thankful to them.”