Winston has a knack for finding end zone

Cougs’ redshirt junior receiver is new go-to guy for Minshew in red zone



Redshirt junior wide receiver Easop Winston Jr. dodges a tackle while running downfield against Eastern Washington University on Saturday in Martin Stadium.

JACKSON GARDNER, Evergreen reporter

You wouldn’t necessarily classify redshirt junior receiver Easop Winston Jr. as a “niche receiver” — he’s much better than a receiver who would get that kind of label.

But regardless, Winston has found a niche as the go-to guy in the red zone for WSU football’s new graduate transfer quarterback Gardner Minshew II. And while every Cougar wide receiver has to have a pretty extensive route tree — and Winston is no different — he has begun to make his chips on one particular route: the end zone fade.

The end zone fade is designed to take advantage of man coverage that defenses will typically go to in the red zone. And what the offensive coordinator and quarterback are essentially saying by going to that particular route is, “our wide receiver is better than your cornerback.”

That is where trusting your receiver comes in to play.

“Easop’s great, man,” Minshew said, following the 59-24 dismantling of Eastern Washington University on Saturday. “He is a student of the game and really understands how to run routes especially down there [in the red zone] when you get man coverage. He does a really good job of attacking those guys and he’s a guy we’ve got a lot of trust in right now.”

It is a route that traditionally favors bigger-bodied receivers — say 6-foot-4-inch, 220-pound junior receiver Dezmon Patmon or 6-foot-3-inch, 185-pound sophomore Tay Martin. And while Patmon and Martin are capable of running a crisp end zone fade, Winston, at 5 feet 11 inches and 190 pounds, has been the receiver of choice for Minshew.

It requires good chemistry between a quarterback and a receiver: a good toss from the quarterback to start the play, and a receiver who knows how to give himself just a sliver of separation in order to pull in the catch to finish the play.

Obviously these are skills that only come with extensive practice, something Winston has under his belt. And the guys who are practicing with Winston every day can attest to his ability of getting open in the end zone.

“He’s just relentless, he doesn’t give up,” Martin said. “That fade ball, I’ve seen him run it 100 times and it’s the same way. He just gets open. The guy’s a stud, man.”

Sophomore receiver Jamire Calvin agreed.

“He’s faster than you’d think and he’s quicker than you’d think,” Calvin said. “He’s better on the outside. He knows how to freeze the defender then get outside and get leverage and be able to just catch the ball. He’s got really big hands so catching the ball isn’t hard for him.”

Winston scored his first touchdown via an end zone fade in week one against University of Wyoming. Then his second came in the exact same fashion Saturday night against EWU, and it would have been two if he could have pulled in a ball that was just past his outstretched arms.

He has been a viable option in the red zone. Head Coach Mike Leach attested Winston’s success to his technique and being the best route-runner on the team.

“He’s really good at running routes and he’s really good at coming out of his cuts,” Leach said after Saturday’s game. “Technique-wise he’s probably the best one. You know, the biggest thing is we got young receivers and a new quarterback and those guys getting tuned in with one another is starting to happen slowly but surely.”